Did you know that this scary festival originated in Ireland? Do you know how did this tradition start or the story behind who was 'Jack-O-Lantern'? Find something to tell your family, kids, and friends this upcoming Halloween. Now, hold on to your seats as we will tell you the history behind Halloween and how its celebrated in other countries!
Why do we actually celebrate Halloween?
To find the origin we have to travel back in time to the year 500 BC. There, the Celts already celebrated the New Year Samhain on 31 October. They believed that on this day the worlds of the living and the dead collided. The dead were up to mischief on this night and tried to frighten the people. In order not to be recognized by the dead, the living dressed up in creepy costumes and masks. Through various foods that were placed on the graves of the dead, people tried to make the homeless souls feel merciful.
The Celtic festival was continued by the Christians in ancient Ireland. In the 7th century, the Feast of All Saints was introduced, then still known as All Hallows' Eve. In the course of time, it became the Halloween we know. People kept the old tradition and still dressed up in costumes as scary characters on the night of 1 November. Today, All Souls' Day is celebrated on the 2nd of November. In those days it was the custom for people to go around the houses begging for the so-called 'soul cake'. Today, this is done instead by children asking, 'Trick or treat' and receiving candy or sometimes money.
Who was Jack O'Lantern?
Legend has it that the Irish village blacksmith, 'Jack O'Lantern', was so stingy that he was even denied entry to hell. He was eternally condemned to wander around as a ghost with a lump of coal in a turnip. In the USA, the turnip was replaced by a pumpkin and the tradition of carving out pumpkins and then decorating them with glowing lights/candles was born and this tradition has spread worldwide!
In Italy, children still traditionally go around the house and get their hands on sweets with cries of 'Dolcetto o scherzetto', which means 'trick-or-treat'. In the Tuscan town of Borgo a Mozzano, big celebrations take place throughout the municipality every year on 31st of October. Dressed as vampires, witches or demons, people gather for parades, concerts and parties. In Corinaldo near Ancona, the ghoulish festival of the witches is celebrated with big music shows and fireworks. For the ultimate goosebumps, a visit to Palermo is just the thing! There, in the catacombs of the Capuchin monastery, thousands of mummies can be seen up close!
Halloween is one of the most celebrated festivities in the USA every year. Parties and festivals take place all over the country, including at schools and also at work offices. There is also no skimping on house decorations. Costumes don't necessarily have to be scary as costumes of various genres are worn by those participating in the celebration. The main thing for small children is to go around the houses together (usually with adult chaperones nearby) and get lots of sweets after saying, 'Trick or Treat'. Especially in the town of Salem, Massachusetts, also known as Witch Town, the 'Haunting Happenings' took place here, where countless witches were put on trial. These often ended in executions. Pure goosebumps!
As the valid country of origin for Halloween, this tradition has continued in Ireland ever since and is celebrated for several days. The County of Meath claims to have been the place of origin about 2000 years ago, so celebrations take place there over several days. Also secretive, ancient rituals on the nearby mountain Tlachtga are still celebrated. The 'Derry Halloween' in Londonderry is known worldwide as Europe's largest Halloween festival. It's where the scariest and scariest characters gather to celebrate together!
In Mexico, the Dia de los Muertos is celebrated every year from 31 October to 2 November. This is by no means a scary or creepy festival, quite the opposite! According to popular belief, the spirits of the deceased family members return to their families on these days. For the arrival of the spirits, special altars are erected and decorated, and special food and drinks are served. Visiting the grave is also part of the ceremonies and usually celebrated in the form of a family picnic.
Since Halloween was spread by the Celts, or later by the Irish Christians, this tradition has no cultural roots in Japan. Halloween is seen more as a celebration for adults, so there are fewer children going out at night. Shibuya, a district in Tokyo, has now become popularly known for hosting the craziest Halloween parties every year. Especially the famous Shibuya crossing will be crowded by thousands of people on Halloween night. In Japan, the celebrations tend to be limited to commercial trade and fancy costumes in the form of cosplay. Only for a limited time, guests visiting Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea are invited to disguise themselves into Disney-related characters.