China: Yu Lan
Known in English as the Hungry Ghost Festival, this month-long celebration marks the return of the departed to the world of the living. Living relatives burn fake money, televisions, and other big-ticket items as an offering to the deceased; they also offer up elaborate meals as sacrifice, and stage elaborate operas to entertain the spirits.
Sicily: Tutti i Santi (All Saints’ Day)
Children on the Italian island of Sicily eagerly await All Saints’ Day each year, with the promise of visits from their dearly departed loved ones. The fact that these spirits bring along candy, particularly fruttadi martorana, marzipan in the shape of fruits, and toys, doesn't hurt, either.It’s also a day to visit the graves of the deceased, making sure they’re in tip-top shape.
England: Guy Fawkes Night
North American Halloween may have originated in the British Isles, but the holiday isn't nearly as popular as it is on the other side of the Atlantic. What is popular, though, is Guy Fawkes Night, celebrated by lighting bonfires each November 5th. So who was Guy Fawkes, and why does he have his own holiday? Well, back in 1605 Guy Fawkes was part of a plot to oust the Protestant King James I and replace him with a Catholic leader. The attempt failed and Fawkes was arrested; November 5th was the day of his execution.
Japan: The Obon
The Japanese version of Halloween, related to the Chinese Hungry Ghost festival, isn't a night of spooks, screams, and scares: rather,the spirits return to earth to visit their living relatives. The living relatives, in turn, place lanterns outside of their homes to help guide the spirits; at the end of the festival, they place lit lanterns in a river,signaling that the spirits are returning to the afterlife.
Mexico: Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
No nation celebrates the dead with festivities better than Mexico. With roots in both traditional Aztec culture and in Spanish Christian culture, Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), is celebrated over several days, from Oct. 31 through Nov. 2. It’s not Halloween at all, but rather a way that All Souls Day comes to life in Mexico. The celebration offers a chance to remember the deceased, tell their stories and celebrate their lives. Family feasts, elaborate home altars, skull-shaped sweets, lots of tequila, dancing and mariachi music, as well as parades of people dressed as skeletons, all ensure that one’s ancestors are well remembered. The celebration is embraced across Mexico, varying from region to region.
Peru: Día de Todos los Santos (AllSaint’s Day)
This celebration is very similar to Mexico’s Day of the Dead, where families buy special breads and candies and set the table for the souls of their loved ones to join them for dinner. Some families go to the cemeteries to have a party and celebrate the spirits of the living and the dead.
Ireland (All Hallows Eve)
The traditional birthplace of Halloween, Ireland is, naturally, home to one of the biggest celebrations: The Spirits of Meath Halloween Festival in County Meath, where an ancient Celtic festival we now know as Halloween began more than 2,000 years ago. Throughout the country, Halloween is welcomed with bonfires, party games and traditional food, such as barmbrack, an Irish fruitcake that contains coins, buttons, rings and other fortunetelling objects;and, of course, beer (among other drinks of choice). Fortunetelling is part of the old Irish Halloween tradition. If a young woman gets a ring that has been baked in a pastry or bread or even mashed potatoes, then she’ll be married by next Halloween. Tricks are also part of the Irish Halloween scene. Kids knock on doors, and then run away before the doors get opened by the owner.
Costa Rica: Día de la Mascarada (Dayof the Masquerade)
Costa Rica,October 31st is called “Dia de la Mascarada”, Day of the Masquerade. Costa Ricans celebrate this day in a couple of ways. The Masquerade Parade has become an opportunity for local artists to express themselves through the costumes. Each costume is known simply as a “masquerade”. Each masquerade has a head and a body. Each head is made from layers of glue and newspaper sheets that are dried in the sunshine. They are very similar to paper Mache piñatas. These are made into humongous helmet-like heads representing a variety of characters:
There are three characters that are not to be missed. They have been so popular that they have become part of the culture:
The parades are full of many people wearing their masquerades and dancing. The music is provided by groups of musicians walking with them, playing cymbals, trumpets and drums.These “comparsas” (groups of musicians) provide the excitement for the whole crowd.