North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween around the world

Halloween is, some say, one of the world's oldest holidays. It is most popular (and likely commercialized) in the US and Canada where it is the celebration where the most candy is sold - (fighting off Easter for the honors).

From one website (, we get a rundown of various national approaches to the event. "Among Spanish-speaking nations, Halloween is known as "El Dia de los Muertos." It is a joyous and happy holiday...a time to remember friends and family who have died. Officially commemorated on November 2 (All Souls' Day), the three-day celebration actually begins on the evening of October 31."

Mexicans honor their loved ones with guitar serenades

Elaborate shrines during this quasi-religious and spirited time

The theme of spirit ancestors nearing the earth from their own habitation seems to be one of two underlying themes, the other is an opportunity to honor those departed - the All Souls' Day mentioned above.

In China, Halloween is known as Teng Chieh. Food and water are placed in front of photographs of family members who have departed while bonfires and lanterns are lit in order to light the paths of the spirits as they travel the earth on Halloween night. Worshippers in Buddhist temples fashion "boats of the law" from paper, some of which are very large, which are then burned in the evening hours.

Chinese lanterns for the spirits

The Halloween celebration in Hong Kong is known as "Yue Lan" (Festival of the Hungry Ghosts) and is a time when it is believed that spirits roam the world for twenty-four hours.

The traditional Yue Lan celebration ...

.. and the modern fascination with costumes and pumpkins

Japan celebrates the "Obon Festival" which is dedicated to the spirits of ancestors. Special foods are prepared and bright red lanterns are hung everywhere. Candles are lit and placed into lanterns which are then set afloat on rivers and seas.

For the last two years in Japan, one suspects, the memories still linger strongly regarding those who lost their lives in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and this tradition has been especially meaningful

In Korea, there is a festival similar to Halloween known as "Chusok" though it takes place in August. Families thank their ancestors for the fruits of their labor, and pay respect by visiting their tombs and making offerings of rice and fruits.

Ireland is pointed to as the birthplace of Westernized halloween. From the above referenced website, "in rural areas, bonfires are lit as they were in the days of the Celts and children dress up in costumes to spend the evening "trick-or-treating" in their neighborhoods. After the visiting, most people attend parties with neighbors and friends. At these parties, many games are played, including "snap-apple," in which an apple on a string is tied to a doorframe or tree, and players attempt to take a bite out of the suspended apple. In addition to bobbing for apples, parents often arrange treasure hunts with sweets or pastries as the "treasure." The Irish also play a card game where cards are laid face-down on a table with sweets or coins beneath them. When a child selects a card, he or she receives whatever prize might be found there. A traditional food is eaten on Halloween called 'barnbrack.'"

The Celtic cemeteries in Ireland remain the quintessential haunts for ghosts and spirits

Apparently at one time English children made "punkies" out of large beetroots, upon which they carved a design of their choice. They would carry their "punkies" through the streets while singing a "Punkie Night Song" as they knocked on doors and asked for money. In some rural areas, turnip lanterns were placed on gateposts to protect homes from the spirits who roamed on Halloween night. Another old custom was to toss objects such as stones, vegetables and nuts into a bonfire to frighten away the spirits. For the most part however, the English ceased celebrating Halloween with the spread of Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation, though the commercialized version of candy and costumes has re-emerged.

English version of orange pumpkins

Finally, France apparently isn't into Halloween (it is considered an "American" holiday which thus precludes it from having any importance). However, as in England, some celebrations are growing. Chocolateries prepare delicate creations for the event. Children dress up - ghosts and vampires are quite common - and interestingly, teens swarm McDonald's, apparently the mecca of all things Halloween (i.e. American). Disneyland Paris also has a Halloween celebration for visitors.

France, not impressed with the American version of halloween, apparently still puts up with a Disney version

What has been taken seriously and has strong roots in French tradition is All Saint's Day, which dates back at least to the seventh century. As elsewhere, the French honor the dead, visiting cemeteries, where tombs are lavishly decorated with flowers and personal items.

Canadian kids learning the halloween ropes

A fun celebration, tinged with some positive meaning for paying respect to departed loved ones.


Sarah said...

Fun post! Loved all the pictures and I'm going to point out the one with the skeletons to the princess, she'll love it! Do your research, she'll probably have a bunch of questions for you about them.

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