5 Halloween-like traditions from around the world

31 October 2019 08:31

Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico

Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico

Whether it's burning images of food, letting lanterns loose down a river or choking on a ring in fruitcake, there are a number of kooky customs around the world to celebrate the supernatural.

Here we take a look at five of the most unusual...

1. Fortune telling food, Ireland & Scotland

Halloween is believed to originate from the ancient Irish festival of Samhain. Today, many Pagan rituals have fallen out of favour for better-known US traditions, but some Celtic quirks remain. Irish fruitcake containing coins, buttons and rings is eaten with the contents used for fortune telling. Other traditions include 'snap-apple': a game where apples are strung to a doorway and players attempt to eat the hanging fruit.

2. Disappearing cutlery, Germany

In parts of Southern Germany and Austria, Halloween is known as the extended All Souls' Week. During this time superstitious types hide their knives to protect themselves from bloodthirsty spirits. For a piece of German All Souls action, head to Frankenstein castle near Darmstadt, where visitors are treated to actors dressed as ghosts and ghouls and a host of supernatural themed events.

3. Burning photographs, Hong Kong

During Yue Lan, or the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts, it's customary to burn pictures of fruit and money so the goods make their way to the spirit world. The idea is to feed the restless spirits who roam the world and appease ancestors. Roadside fires can be found around Hong Kong where revellers sacrifice fake bank notes and other flammable offerings.

4. DIY altars, Mexico

El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is celebrated on 1st and 2nd November, as swathes of Latin Americans honour those who have passed away. Special holiday bread, pen de muerto (bread of the dead), is offered up to ancestors along with fruits, stacks of tortillas and other foods on DIY altars in the home. It's believed that the Gates of Heaven open at midnight on 31 October and children's souls return to Earth to be reunited with their families, who leave toys and sweets as gifts for the day.

5. River faring lanterns, Japan

The Obon Festival in Japan is a fiery affair. The three-day event remembers deceased ancestors as families sweep paths between graves and their lost ones' birthplaces, to guide their souls home. There the souls are greeted with lanterns, candles and traditional Obon dances set to a soundtrack of Japanese taiko drums. The Buddhist festival comes to a climax as the living lead their ancestors' souls to the afterlife using lanterns or okuri-bon. In recent years floating lanterns have been left to run down rivers to symbolise the journey.

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