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Halloween is one of the world’s oldest holidays. For some reason, the living thoroughly enjoy celebrating the dead and the after life… But who are we to complain? We love Halloween. Here is a list of how three drastically different cultures celebrate the dead.

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Ireland

Many believe that Ireland’s ancient Samhain holiday is what morphed into what the western world calls Halloween today. It first began as a Celtic fire festival and took on many different names as the years passed and Christianity influenced Irish culture.

In many places where it is practiced, Samhain falls around the same time that growing season ends, when October turns to November. It is believed that the veil between this life and the afterlife becomes thinner during this transition.

Unlike some of the other holidays on this list, Samhain is thought to be a very serious and spiritual holiday for witches, Wiccans, Druids and other Pagans who observe it, and involves many different rituals and practices.

One such ritual involves starting a bonfire outdoors or a small fire in a fireplace, writing down one of your bad habits that you wish to stop and then throwing it into the flames. As you do this, imagine a positive change inyour life and move around the fire clockwise.

On the holiday, bonfires can be found lighting up the night in the Irish countryside.

Snap-Apple Night, painted by Irish artist Daniel Maclise in 1833, inspired by a Halloween party he attended in Blarney, Ireland, in 1832. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Snap-Apple Night, painted by Irish artist Daniel Maclise in 1833, inspired by a Halloween party he attended in Blarney, Ireland, in 1832. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Mexico

Dia de los Muertos is an elaborate and complicated Mexican holiday, which combines Aztec and Catholic traditions. It is celebrated on November 1 and 2 throughout Latin America, namely in Mexico.

Although this is a holiday based on death, it is anything but scary. It is celebrated with lively and colorful parties, activities, food and drink.

Those who celebrate Dia de los Muertos believe that their loved-ones who have passed on would be offended by mourning and sadness, and so they take part in all of the activities the dead would have enjoyed during life.

Dia de los Muertos is widely known for its imagery, especially the lively skeletons and skulls that are used to represent the dead. These colorful characters can be found in every corner during the holiday.

Families will take their time elaborately decorating their past family members’ graves during the holiday, as well as creating “ofrendas,” or altars, as a sign of love and respect.

Ofrendas will typically include the loved-one’s favorite food and drinks as well as flowers, candles and photos.

By Jaredzimmerman (WMF) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Jaredzimmerman (WMF) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

China

The Chinese have several holidays that are dedicated to celebrating ghosts and the afterlife. These holidays include the Qing Ming Festival, the Spring Festival and the Double Ninth Festival.

Another of these festivals is the Hungry Ghost Festival, also known as the Zhongyuan Festival by Taoists and the Yulanpen Festival by Buddhists, which falls on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month. This specific date was chosen because of the traditional Chinese belief that the seventh month is when restless spirits roam the earth.

During this ancient holiday, many people in China hope to please the restless ghosts and “feed” their ancestors as well, linking the holiday to the Chinese tradition of ancestor worship.

If you visit a Hungry Ghost celebration, be prepared to witness many roadside fires and burnings of offerings for ghosts and ancestors to use in the afterlife. Offerings include food, gifts and even some faux cash.

Entertainment is also important to those who have passed on tothe afterlife. The Hungry Ghost Festivals often include Chinese operas and other live stage performances, which feature tales of gods and goddesses. You can also find stand-up comedy, and numerous song and dance performances.

Hungry Ghost Festival: For one long lunar month during the Hungry Ghost Festival, ghosts are said to roam the earth. Paper money & other offerings are burned to appease the restless spirits. By Juin Hoo, (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/), via Flickr.

For one long lunar month during the Hungry Ghost Festival, ghosts are said to roam the earth. By Juin Hoo, (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/), via Flickr.

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Tagged: Holidays

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