All Hallows’ Evening
Long time ago on the All Saints Day people used to spend time honouring their ancestors and lost relatives. Nowadays Halloween is a festival in honour of death. Many people full-heartedly believe that this is an American tradition only and it is indeed one of the most brightly celebrated festivals in the US.
This day originally comes from Britain and Ireland pagan celebrations which probably makes it one of the world’s oldest holidays. However, many cultures all over the world have their own Halloweens. They are just called somewhat different – from Día de los Muertos in Mexico to Gai Jatra in Nepa. And truth to be told, these are even older than Christianised Halloween that we all know. This time of the year people celebrate death, honouring deceased family members and friends and follow unique traditions to keep evil spirits away.
As Yolla is an international company, we have lots of customers from all over the world. That’s why we decided to find out interesting ways of celebratiing Halloween in different cultures and share what we learned with you. Enjoy but please don’t get scared!
Mexico – Día de los Muertos
Remember the beginning of Spectre, where James Bond is wandering through black and white parade of Calacas and Calaveras (skeletons and skulls) on Mexican streets? That was Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Death, broadly celebrated throughout Mexico, Latin America and even some parts of Spain on the 1st and 2nd of November.
During Dia de los Muertos people not only go out on the streets to participate in procession (exactly as in James Bond movie) but also honor their deceased relatives by building an altar full of sugar skulls, food and drinks they used to love.
Hong Kong – Yue Lan
Yue Lan is The Hungry Ghost Festival and it falls on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month. In Hong Kong it’s believed that the 7th lunar month is time when the doors of heaven and hell are open and spirits go out to meet their loved ones. The peak of ghostly activities comes at Yue Lan. This day people burn special incense and offer food to spirits to ensure they don’t get too angry and come back where they came from.
Romania – The Legend of Dracula
In Romania Halloween is celebrated on the 31st of October as well but as you may have guessed the main hero of the day is Dracula. Transylvania is the capital of celebration with endless vampires, blood and garlic on the streets. To immerse into the atmosphere even deeper, one can spend a night in a traditional Transylvania castle full of vampires and ghosts.
Japan – Obon
The Festival of the Dead or Obon is traditionally held in Japan in August, on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month – just as Yue Lan in Hong Kong. It’s an ancient Buddhist tradition of honouring the spirits of the ancestors. During this period Japanese usually visit the graves of their loved ones, perform obon dances (bon odori), and hang all kinds of lanterns on the front doors.
The Netherlands – St. Martin Day
Saint Martin’s Day is an old traditional holiday celebrated in many parts of Europe. Unlike Halloween, people do not pray for dead on this day but the holidays still have something in common. It is held on the 12th of November and is named after St. Martin of Tours who was known for his endless kindness to strangers. Saint Martin’s Day is celebrated across Europe but only in Netherlands it looks a lot like Halloween. Children dress up, go from door to door singing «Sinte Sinte Maarten» to get sweets in return.
Nepal – Gai Jatra
Gai Jatra can be translated as… You will never believe us, but it is the “cow procession”. How can it be connected to Halloween?
According to an ancient legend, after death people used to walk through the mythical Baitarni River holding the tail of a cow to reach heaven. That’s why on the first day of the waning moon in the month of Bhadra (as in the lunar calendar) families, who have lost loved ones that year, put on fancy dresses and follow cows in the procession to get sure their relatives go to a good place in heaven.
Wishing Safe and Happy Halloween!
There are many more customs and traditions to celebrate festivals of Death worldwide and travelling is definitely the best way to explore them. But before heading off to take part in a cow procession or perform bon odori, make sure to download Yolla on your smartphone. Our international calling rates are incredibly cheap, and during such trip you will definitely have a lot of news to talk about!