It’s time once again to carve some jack-o’-lanterns and bust out the cobwebs as All Hallows Eve is creeping closer.
Modern Halloween is a celebration of all things creepy and spooky — and of whose mothers make the best costumes. But, its roots are believed to be in the Celtic Samhain festival, during which bonfires were lit and costumes were worn to ward off ghosts. After the inception of the Catholic observance of All Saints’ Day, the evening before became known as All Hallows Eve. This morphed into Halloween.
In other parts of the globe, spirits of the departed are honored in various ways — some solemn and some wild. Here are seven ways in which the dead might be venerated.
Hungry Ghost Festival, China
China celebrates multiple holidays on which the deceased are remembered. For Teng Chieh food and water are placed in front of photographs of family members and bonfires and lanterns are lit to guide the spirits' paths. During the Qingming Festival, the graves of the deceased are visited and tended to. Offerings of food, alcohol and trinkets made. And, the Hungry Ghost Festival occurs during ghost month (the seventh month of the Chinese calendar) when spirits are believed to emerge from the lower realm. Similar celebrations are observed throughout Asia. <em>Photo: AFP/Getty Images</em>
El Dia de los Muertos, Mexico and Latin America
Aside from Halloween, Mexico's El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is perhaps the most known celebration of the departed by those in the U.S. It's celebrated on the first days of November, coinciding with the Catholic observances of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. Generally speaking children are remembered on November 1 and adults on November 2. To mark these days, altars are constructed and dedicated to the dead, and their grave sites are decorated with flowers, candles and mementos and stocked with their favorite foods. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/cfrausto/4069223499/" target="_hplink">Christian Frausto Bernal</a>/Flickr
Obon festival, Japan
The three-day Japanese Obon festival is a Buddhist observance dedicated to the spirits of ancestors. During the festival, celebrated in July or August, special foods are prepared, red lanterns are hung and glowing lanterns are set afloat on waterways. Obon has a family-reunion element, as the Japanese will return to their ancestral homes to be reunited with relatives living and deceased. Graves are visited and fires might be lit to guide the spirits home. <em>Photo: AFP/Getty Images</em>
Dia de los Natitas, Bolivia
In Bolivia a festival known as Dia de los ñatitas or Day of the Skulls is celebrated in November a week after All Saints' Day. It stems from a historic tradition of keeping skulls -- sometimes of family members but not always -- in the home to watch over and protect the family. To mark the festival, the skulls are given fresh adornments like hats or crowns of flowers and gift offerings are made. They might also be brought to the cemetery for prayers and blessings. <em>Photo: AFP/Getty Images</em>
Korea's Chuseok festival is a celebration of the harvest that could be likened to Korean Thanksgiving. During the festival, ancestors are celebrated and thanked for the blessing of the annual bounty. During the observance, memorial services are held for the departed and time is made to clean familial grave sites. Traditional dress is donned and participants engage in dancing, wrestling matches and prepare foods like rice cakes. <em> Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/manbeastextraordinaire/1453379771/" target="_hplink">manbeastextraordinaire</a>/Flickr</em>
Haitians also celebrate a day of the dead known as Ghede, a voodoo tradition that's celebrated in conjunction with Catholic All Souls' Day. During nighttime celebrations loud music is played to awaken Baron Samedi, the god of death. And, participants will dress in costumes meant to channel the Ghedes, or spirits of the underworld. Faces will also be painted white to mimic the pallor of the dead. Cemeteries are visited to both visit departed families and make offerings, like that of spiced alcohol, to Baron Samedi. <em>Photo: AFP/Getty Images</em>
Pitru Paksha, India
In India, Pitru Paksha is the 16-day period in which ancestors are honored. Hindu mythology holds that three generations of deceased are in a netherworld called Pitru-loka that exists between heaven and earth. The living perform the Shrāddha rite in their memory to help them cross over. Specific foods like dal and rice are also offered. <em>Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/honzasoukup/3101443844/" target="_hplink">Honza Soukup</a>/Flickr</em>