Vivian E. Hill
November 7th, 2020
Our world is full of interesting and beautiful cultures, and now that Halloween recently ended we can look around the globe to see how other people celebrate Halloween or Halloween-alike festivals.
To begin, we should discuss the so-called “birthplace of Halloween”. Samhain (pronounced “SAH-win”) is a pagan holiday derived from Ireland that has lasted for centuries. It is celebrated from October 31st to November 1st, and experienced a revival in the 1980s, alongside the popularity of Wicca. It is believed that the barrier between the spirit and mortal realm is broken during this time. Huge bonfires are lit in honor of nature and one’s ancestors. In America, pagans host dances called Witches’ Balls around Samhain.
Different forms of how Halloween is celebrated include the Mexican holiday, Dia de los Muertos, a colorful holiday that celebrates the lives of the deceased loved ones. This holiday is celebrated on November 2nd and families go visit gravesites to maintain the gravestones. Families place candles, flowers, and the loved one’s favorite foods around the grave or altar. The altars contain treats, pan de muerto (a traditional sweet bread made the weeks leading up to Día de los Muertos), ceramic skulls, and most importantly pictures of the loved one. Additionally, marigolds are very symbolic of Dia de los Muertos, and petals are often laid across the floor to guide the spirits home.
On the other side of the world, Hong Kong participates in the Hungry Ghost Festival. It is a month-long tradition that also pays respect to the spirits of the dead. It is celebrated in many parts of China in the seventh month of the lunar calendar. Ghosts are said to haunt the living and to appease their appetites as they return. People burn money (or joss paper, also known as spirit money), food, and even luxury items to soothe and pay respect to these wandering spirits. During this month, people often hand out rice to others in need and perform traditional Chinese operas for the living and the dead to enjoy.
Finally, in Nigeria, there is the Awuru Odo Festival. This festival takes place once every two years between September and April. Odo are the returning dead that have a hierarchy with six different categories: elderly, titled odo, youthful, masculine odo, female odo (young and old types), child/infant odo, spirit odo, and animal odo. They are welcomed back with celebrations revolving around gift-giving and visiting their former homes. Dramatic presentations of the Odo characters contain costumes made of plant fiber, leaves, beads, and feathers. When the Odo eventually have to leave, it is a very sad, emotional departure.
It is always good to look around and see how other people view things. Holidays, such as Halloween, bring us all together. If some of these holidays piqued your interest, it would be a good idea to read more about them because there are so many things you can learn about people and their culture from their holidays.
History.com Editors. “Samhain.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 6 Apr. 2018, http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/samhain.
Ko, Stella, and Georgia McCafferty. “Hungry Ghost Festival: Paying Tribute to Ancestors by Burning Paper.” CNN, Cable News Network, 23 Aug. 2016, http://www.cnn.com/travel/article/hong-kong-hungry-ghost-festival/index.html.
Ndukaku, J. N. “The Odo Festival, Nigeria.” Insert.Odo.htm, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1982, www5.csudh.edu/bdeluca/thepowerofmasks/hum310/Insert.Odo.htm.
“November 2nd – the Day of the Dead, All Soul’s Day.” The Day of the Dead, TheHealingRose, http://www.unm.edu/~htafoya/dayofthedead.html.