Go beyond the American traditions of costumes and trick-or-treating and learn about some of the incredible festivals and celebrations that occur around the world. From Mexico’s Día de los Muertos to Nepal’s Gai Jatra, these are events that honor and connect deeply with their country of origin. No need to be afraid, with HomeExchange you’ll find the perfect exchange to make your otherworldly dream a reality.
While Halloween is about fearing the dead, Día de los Muertos – “Day of the Dead” in Spanish – is all about celebrating them. What began as a month-long Aztec tradition was condensed when the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Mexico, bringing Catholicism with them. Today, Día de los Muertos is observed between October 31 and November 2: in other words, Halloween, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day. The lively celebration honors ancestors with parades, parties, festivals, food, and drink. During Día de los Muertos, the living dress as their ancestors, painting their faces like skulls, and honor deceased relatives with private altars, where they make offerings of candles, sugar skulls, tequila, marigolds, and more. This celebration isn’t just Mexican – it takes place throughout Latin America and even parts of the U.S., so there are lots of destinations where you can experience it!
You could say that Pangangaluluwa is the Filipino version of trick-or-treating. In this tradition – now mostly celebrated in the Philippines’ more rural regions – children go from house to house singing special songs in return for money, food, and prayers. The songs are said to help the departed out of Purgatory. During Pangangaluluwan festivities – also celebrated on All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day – families pay visits to the cemeteries where their relatives are buried, cleaning up the tombs and decorating them with offerings of flowers and candles.
In Poland, families observe All Souls’ Day, November 1, as a time to honor their dead relatives. People travel home to be with their families, visiting the graves of deceased loved ones to decorate them with lanterns, wreaths, and gifts. Traditionally, extra places are set at the table and extra food is cooked so that the deceased, believed to be visiting from beyond the grave, may partake.
Although it doesn’t take place on All Saints’ Day or thereabouts, Gai Jatra has one thing in common with many of the others on this list: it celebrates the dead. Typically falling between July and September, Gai Jatra is an opportunity for the living to commemorate their loved ones who have passed in the previous year. Because the cow is holy in the Hindu religion, Nepalese who have lost family members in the previous year lead cows through the streets and even dress as cows themselves in a mirthful celebration.
Ireland: the land we have to thank for not only St. Patrick’s Day, but also Halloween! Irish Halloween originated from Samhain, an ancient Gaelic tradition that was part harvest festival and part celebration of the Celtic New Year’s beginning. Out of Samhain have emerged some of the Halloween traditions that are so popular today in America, including apple bobbing and pumpkin carving. Irish Halloween has many of its own unique traditions, too, such as the eating of barnbrack, a special fruitcake with prizes baked into it, each meant to foretell the future of whoever receives them. To experience what is known as Ireland’s most epic Halloween celebration, head to Derry-Londonderry for fireworks, parades, performances, and more.
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