Halloween History: Halloween Around The World
This article is a bonus chapter of GolfBlogger’s book: Things In The Basement: A History of Halloween Horrors, available on Amazon at the link.
Today, Halloween celebrations with costumes, trick or treating and Hollywood monsters is the order of the day in the United States, Canada and Ireland.
In Mexico, it is celebrated as El Dia De Los Muertos, a three day celebration that begins on October 31, and ends on All Souls Day. Like North America’s Halloween, the event is a complex mixture of cultural traditions. It can be traced to Aztec ceremonies honoring the dead, which apparently were traditionally held in August. Spanish priests moved the event to coincide with All Souls Day, hoping to co-opt the natives into Catholicism.
Observances of the holiday apparently vary from region to region – and village to village – so it is hard to generalize, but it seems that they all observe the common practice of honoring the dead.
During this festival, the dead are supposed to return to their earthly homes on October 31, so all manner of things are set out to make them feel welcome. Some families will build a small display that includes photographs, candy, decorations, the deceased’s favorite food and so on. Some will go so far as to set out wash basins and towels. On November 2, families will gather to clean up and decorate the gravesites of the departed.
More modern Mexican families apparently will skip much of this and celebrate mainly by sharing a family feast where a “Bread of the Dead” is served. Each loaf contains a small plastic toy skeleton, which is said to be good luck to the one who finds it. Families also will celebrate by giving each other gifts with a skull or skeleton theme.
The holiday also is often marked with a parade, in which the participants dress up as skeletons, ghosts and other ghoulish creatures, and carry a coffin through the town. Spectators will throw fruit, flowers and candies at the participants.
In England, Halloween is overshadowed by Guy Fawkes day, which is celebrated on Nov. 5. Fawkes was a Catholic sympathizer who attempted to blow up the Parliament building and kill the protestant King James. He was caught and executed on Nov. 5. 1605.
As the story goes, after his execution, bonfires were lit in which Englishmen burned effigies of the Pope. Later, the effigies of the Pope became effigies of Fawkes himself.
Today, Guy Fawkes day still is celebrated in England, although the extent of the celebration varies, In some communities Children will go about, carrying an effigy, or “Guy” and ask for a “penny for the Guy.” The figure has further been popularized in the graphic novel “V For Vendetta” and the movie by the same name. Modern protest groups often now use Guy Fawkes masks.