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Halloween and the Day of the Dead

Sreng Mao: ACE/IDP

Halloween is a holiday celebrated on the night of October 31. The word Halloween is a shortening of “All Hallows’ Evening”, also known as “Hallowe’en” or “All Hallows’ Eve”.

Traditional activities include trick-or-treating, bonfires, costume parties, visiting “haunted houses” and carving jack-o’-lanterns. Irish and Scottish immigrants carried versions of the tradition to North America in the 19th century. Many Western countries embraced the holiday in the late 20th century, including the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom as well as, to a lesser extent, Australia and New Zealand.

Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounced “sah-win”). The festival of Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture. Samhain was a time used by the ancient pagans to take stock of supplies and prepare for winter. The ancient Gaels believed that on October 31, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc such as sickness or damaged crops.

The festival would frequently involve bonfires. It is believed that the fires attracted insects to the area which attracted bats to the area. These are additional attributes of the history of Halloween.

Masks and costumes were worn in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or appease them.

The history of Halloween has evolved. The activity is popular in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada and – due to increased American cultural influence in recent years imported through exposure to US television and other media – trick-or-treating has started to occur among children in many parts of Europe.

The Day of the Dead celebrations might seem to be very similar to Halloween. In both celebrations people dress up in costumes, there are a lot of skeletons everywhere, and there are special sweet treats and candies given out.

The practice of celebrating the dead goes back thousands of years in South American cultures. In the Aztec culture the celebration of the dead was in August and went on for a month.

But there are some big differences between the holiday that promotes fear of the dead and the holiday that celebrates the dead. The Day of the Dead is about celebrating the dead, not being afraid of them. It is for people to honour their ancestors and loved ones who have passed away. It is a celebration of family and a show of respect for those who have passed away.

In this way the holiday is more similar to the Pchum Ben festival in Cambodia which is celebrated at around the same time.



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