Published On: October 11th, 2023Categories: MSN

Halloween Is Fun, But These Holidays Are More Meaningful

Halloween Is Fun, But These Holidays Are More Meaningful

Halloween originates in the Celtic holiday Samhain, a harvest festival with spooky tie-ins and tributes to ancestors. Today, the American tradition of Halloween mostly involves costumes and candy, not our connection to the earth or our past. This commercialized version is growing in popularity around the world, but many cultures have their own traditions for honoring the dead and celebrating autumn’s bounty with costumes and feasting.

Austria: Kürbisfest

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Kürbisfest (Pumpkin Festival) in Austria is a popular event that takes place in the town of Retz (with similar festivals in other cities). It’s held on the last weekend of October and celebrates all things pumpkin:

  • A pumpkin market where visitors can buy fresh pumpkins, pumpkin products, and pumpkin-themed souvenirs.
  • A pumpkin-carving contest where participants compete to create the most impressive pumpkin carvings.
  • A pumpkin soup festival where visitors can sample different types of pumpkin soup.
  • A pumpkin parade where participants march through the town with their pumpkin carvings.
  • A pumpkin-themed children’s program with games, crafts, and activities for kids.

Get the pumpkin picture? 

Cambodia: Pchum Ben

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Pchum Ben (Balled Rice Gathering) is a 15-day religious festival that marks the start of the journey of souls to purgatory, a place where they’re judged for their deeds in life. It’s believed that the gates of hell open during this time, and the spirits of the dead are released to visit their living relatives.

Pchum Ben is celebrated in the tenth month of the Khmer calendar, which typically falls in October. The festival begins on the 15th day of the month and lasts for 15 days. During this time, Cambodians visit temples to pray for their deceased loved ones and to offer them food and other offerings.

Here are some of the ways that Pchum Ben is celebrated in Cambodia:

  • Visiting temples: Cambodians visit temples to pray for their deceased loved ones and to offer them food and other offerings.
  • Cooking food: Families cook large quantities of food to offer to their deceased loved ones. The food is typically placed on trays and covered with banana leaves.
  • Giving alms to monks: Cambodians give alms to monks in order to generate merit for their deceased loved ones.
  • Attending ceremonies: Buddhist monks perform ceremonies at temples throughout the Pchum Ben festival. These ceremonies are designed to help the spirits of the dead find peace.

Costa Rica: Día Nacional de la Mascarada Costarricense

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Día Nacional de la Mascarada Costarricense (National Day of the Costa Rican Mask) is a celebration that takes place every October 31st in Costa Rica. This date was established in 1997 to recognize the importance of masks as part of Costa Rican cultural heritage.

Masks are a popular Costa Rican tradition that dates back to colonial times. They are giant figures, made of clay, wood, paper, or plaster, that represent popular figures of Costa Rican culture, such as the devil or the crying woman. The mascareros, who are the people who dress up as these figures, dance to the rhythm of Costa Rican folk music, the cimarrona.

During the Día Nacional de la Mascarada, a series of activities are held throughout the country to celebrate this tradition. These activities include:

  • Parades: The mascareros parade through the streets of cities and towns in Costa Rica.
  • Festivals: Mask festivals are organized in which the mascareros compete for the prize for the best costume.
  • Exhibitions: Masks from different eras and styles are exhibited.

England: Mischief Night & Guy Fawkes Day

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Mischief Night is a night of harmless pranks and mischief that is celebrated in some parts of England, primarily on the night of October 30th. It’s also known as Chievous Night in Yorkshire.

The origins of Mischief Night aren’t clear, but it’s thought to have evolved from older traditions such as Guy Fawkes Night and May Day. It was traditionally a time for children and young adults to play pranks on their neighbors, such as ringing doorbells and running away, egging cars, or knocking over dustbins.

In recent years, Mischief Night has become more commercialized, and some people now see it as an opportunity to cause more serious damage. However, most people still celebrate Mischief Night in a lighthearted and playful way.

Guy Fawkes Night, also known as Bonfire Night or Fireworks Night, commemorates the failure of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. On that day, Guy Fawkes, a member of the plotters, was arrested while guarding a cache of explosives placed beneath the House of Lords, which were intended to assassinate King James I and his Parliament.

The other plotters were either killed or captured, and the Gunpowder Plot was ultimately unsuccessful. However, the event is still commemorated in England each year on November 5th with bonfires and fireworks.

France: La Toussaint

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La Toussaint (All Saints’ Day) is a Catholic holiday celebrated in France on November 1st by remembering and honoring all saints, known and unknown.

On La Toussaint, French people visit cemeteries to clean and decorate the graves of their loved ones. They bring flowers, candles, and food to leave at the graves. Many people also attend church services on La Toussaint to pray for their deceased loved ones and to celebrate the lives of the saints.

La Toussaint is a public holiday in France, and many businesses and schools are closed on this day. 

Germany: Martinstag

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Martinstag, or Saint Martin’s Day, is celebrated on November 11th. It’s a day to remember and honor Saint Martin of Tours, a 4th-century bishop who is known for his generosity and compassion. Saint Martin’s Day originated in France, and it’s also celebrated in the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Scandinavia, and parts of Eastern Europe..

Martinstag is a popular holiday in Germany, and is celebrated with lantern processions, where children in costumes carry paper lanterns through the streets and sing songs about Saint Martin. Other common traditions are to eat roasted goose, shop at street markets, or attend a bonfire.

If Martinstag is a little childish for you, head to Frankenstein’s Castle in Darmstadt for the ultimate Halloween bash.

Guatemala: Festival de Barriletes Gigantes

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The Festival de Barriletes Gigantes (Giant Kite Festival) is a two-day event that’s celebrated on November 1st and 2nd in Santiago Sacatepéquez, Guatemala. The festival is a celebration of the Day of the Dead, and it features the flying of giant kites, known as barriletes gigantes.

The barriletes gigantes are made of paper, cloth, and bamboo, and they can reach up to 50 feet in length. They are typically decorated with colorful designs and images, and they are often flown in the shape of animals, birds, or other figures.

The festival is a major event in Santiago Sacatepéquez, and it attracts visitors from all over Guatemala and the world. The festival is also a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The festival is believed to have originated in the pre-Columbian era, when the indigenous Maya people used kites to communicate with their ancestors. The tradition was later adopted by the Spanish colonists, and it has been celebrated in Santiago Sacatepéquez for centuries.

Haiti: Fèt Gede

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Haitians celebrate Fèt Gede (Festival of the Dead), on November 1st and 2nd. Fèt Gede is a time to honor and celebrate the ancestral dead, and it’s one of the most important holidays in the Haitian Vodou calendar.

On Fèt Gede, Haitians typically visit cemeteries to clean and decorate the graves of their loved ones. They may also bring food, drinks, and other offerings to leave at the graves. It’s also a time for celebration and feasting on pain au lait (sweet bread), griot (fried pork), pois d’angole (black-eyed peas). Many families and communities hold parties and gatherings on Fèt Gede, and there’s music, dancing, and storytelling.

Some people dress up as the Gede, or spirits of the dead. The Gede are often depicted as being mischievous and playful, and they’re often associated with death and fertility. People drink clairin, a strong rum that’s believed to help you communicate with the spirits of the dead and often used in Vodou rituals.

India: Pitru Paksha

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Pitru Paksha is a 15-day period in the Hindu calendar that’s dedicated to ancestors. It’s also known as Shraddha Paksha, Pitri Amavasya, or Mahalaya. During Pitru Paksha, Hindus perform rituals to honor and appease their ancestors like offering food, water, and prayers. 

Pitru Paksha is believed to be a time when the ancestors come to visit their living descendants. By performing these rituals, Hindus believe that they can help their ancestors to attain Moksha, or liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

Here are some of the specific rituals that are performed during Pitru Paksha:

  • Shraddha: Shraddha is a ritual that’s performed to offer food, water, and prayers to the ancestors. Shraddha can be performed at home or at a temple.
  • Tarpan: Tarpan is a ritual that’s performed to offer water to the ancestors. Tarpan is often performed at a river or stream.
  • Pind Daan: Pind Daan is a ritual that’s performed to offer balls of rice to the ancestors. Pind Daan is often performed at a cemetery.
  • Pitra Moksha: Pitra Moksha is a ritual that’s performed to pray for the liberation of the ancestors. Pitra Moksha is often performed by a priest.

Ireland & Scotland: Samhain

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The Celtic festival Samhain is where we get most of our Halloween traditions. Samhain marks the end of the summer and the beginning of the winter and celebrates the harvest. It is traditionally held on October 31st and is associated with death and the supernatural.

Here are some of the ways that Scots & Irish celebrate Samhain today:

  • Bonfires: Bonfires are a traditional way to celebrate Samhain. People gather around bonfires to tell stories, sing songs, and roast food.
  • Costumes: People often dress up in costumes to celebrate Samhain. Popular costumes include ghosts, witches, and other supernatural creatures.
  • Trick-or-treating: Trick-or-treating is a popular Samhain tradition for children. Children go door-to-door dressed in costumes and ask for candy and other treats.
  • Visiting cemeteries: Many people visit cemeteries on Samhain to remember and honor deceased loved ones. They may leave flowers, candles, or other offerings at the graves of their loved ones.
  • Traditional feasts: Enjoy a feast of fall foods like apples, potatoes, and pumpkins. Serve barmbrack, a fruitcake that predicts who’ll be rich or the next to marry.
  • Celebrate nature: Pagans enjoy being close to the earth and embracing the seasons.

Italy: Ognissanti

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Ognissanti (All Saints’ Day) is a public holiday in Italy on November 1st. It’s a day to celebrate all the saints, both known and unknown.

On Ognissanti, many Italians attend Mass and visit cemeteries to remember their loved ones. They may also decorate graves with flowers and candles. In some parts of Italy, it’s traditional to eat special foods like pan dei morti (bread of the dead) and tortelli di castagne (chestnut tortellini).

Ognissanti is also a time for families to come together and spend time with each other. Many Italians take the day off from work to visit relatives and friends. They may also go on vacation or enjoy a special meal at home.

Japan: Halloween Trains & Kawasaki Halloween Parade

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Festive trains run on Halloween night, and they’re popular events for Japanese people and tourists. They’re typically decorated with Halloween-themed decorations, and passengers are also encouraged to dress up in costumes. There’s often music and dancing on board. Some offer additional activities and attractions, like food and drink stalls, games, and contests.

One of the most popular Japanese Halloween trains is the Yamanote Halloween Train. The Yamanote Line is a circular railway line that encircles Tokyo, and the Halloween Train runs on the Yamanote Line on Halloween night. The Yamanote Halloween Train is known for its lively atmosphere, and is often packed with passengers in costumes.

Another popular Japanese Halloween train is the Osaka Halloween Train. The Osaka Halloween Train runs on the Osaka Metro Midosuji Line, and has a family-friendly atmosphere. The Osaka Halloween Train features a variety of activities for children, like face painting and costume contests.

If you’re looking for even more Halloween fun in Japan, visit the Kawasaki Halloween Parade. The parade features participants dressed in all sorts of costumes, from traditional Halloween costumes to original creations. There are also floats, dancers, and musicians. The parade route runs through the center of Kawasaki, and it culminates in a festival at La Cittadella, a shopping mall in Kawasaki. The top costumes can win thousands of dollars!

Korea: Chuseok

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Chuseok (추석), also known as Hangawi (한가위), is a major Korean holiday that’s celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, which usually falls in September or October. Chuseok is a harvest festival, and it is a time for families to come together and celebrate the year’s bounty.

Koreans may travel to their hometowns to see family or visit the graves of their ancestors and perform ancestral rites. Chuseok is also a time for feasting, and many traditional Korean dishes are eaten on this day, like songpyeon (rice cakes filled with sweet bean paste), japchae (stir-fried glass noodles with vegetables and meat), and bulgogi (grilled marinated beef).

Koreans play traditional games on Chuseok, like ssireum (Korean wrestling) and jegichagi (Korean hacky sack).

México: Día de los Muertos

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The Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday celebrated on November 1st and 2nd, in conjunction with the Catholic holidays of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. It’s a time to remember and honor deceased loved ones.

People visit the graves of their loved ones and decorate them with flowers, candles, and food or build ofrendas (altars) in their homes with photos of their deceased loved ones, as well as their favorite foods and drinks. You can dress up in costumes or wear face paint to represent the dead.

Many communities hold special events during the Day of the Dead, such as parades, festivals, and concerts. Some of the symbols of Day of the Dead are Catrinas, the female skeletons dressed in elegant clothing and elaborate hats, and sugar skulls.

Phillipines: Pangangaluwa

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Pangangaluwa is a Filipino folk tradition practiced during All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. It’s a custom of singing and “souling,” where groups go from house to house singing songs about the dead and asking for alms. 

Pangangaluwa is a way of honoring the dead and seeking their blessings. It is also a way for the living to connect with their ancestors and to learn about the traditions of their culture.

The performers usually dress in costumes to represent the spirits of the dead. They carry lanterns or candles to light their way, and they sing songs about the dead, like:

Pangangaluwa, pangangaluwa,
Pangako ng kaluluwa.
Pagbigyan ninyo kami,
Nang matahimik ang kaluluwa.

(Translation: Souling, souling,
Promise of the soul.
Give us alms,
So that the soul may be at peace.)

The homeowners who are visited by the pangangaluwa performers are expected to give them alms. The alms are usually in the form of food, like rice, sugar, and fruits. The homeowners may also give the performers money or candles that they can use to light their way.

Pangangaluwa is a dying tradition in the Philippines, but it’s still practiced in some rural areas. 

Poland: Dzień Zaduszny

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Dzień Zaduszny, also known as Święto Zmarłych, is a Poland’s version of All Souls’ Day. It’s a day to remember and pray for the souls of the dead, especially those who are in purgatory.

On Dzień Zaduszny, people traditionally visit cemeteries to clean and decorate the graves of their loved ones. They also light candles and say prayers for the dead. In some parts of Poland, there are also special Masses and processions that are held in honor of the dead.

Romania: Day Of Dracula

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The Day of Dracula is celebrated on May 26th rather than in October, but it’s an unofficial holiday that celebrates the country’s most famous fictional character, Count Dracula. The holiday was first created in 2006 by the Romanian Tourism Authority to promote Transylvania as a tourist destination. Ok maybe this one isn’t the most meaningful, but it sounds fun!

On Day of Dracula, there are a number of events held throughout Romania, including:

  • Costumed parades: People dress up as Dracula and other characters from the novel and parade through the streets.
  • Vampire-themed events: There are a number of vampire-themed events held on Day of Dracula, such as vampire-themed nightclub parties and vampire-themed tours of Dracula’s Castle.
  • Dracula-related performances: There are also a number of Dracula-related performances held on Day of Dracula, such as plays and operas based on the novel.

Vietnam: Tết Trung Nguyên

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Tết Trung Nguyên, also known as Vu Lan, is a traditional Vietnamese holiday that is celebrated on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month. It is a time to honor the dead and to pray for their souls.

The holiday is based on the Buddhist legend of Mulian, who saved his mother from hell by offering her food and drink. In Vietnamese culture, it is believed that the gates of hell are opened on this day, allowing the spirits of the dead to come to earth.

On Tết Trung Nguyên, people traditionally visit cemeteries to clean and decorate the graves of their loved ones. They also offer food, drink, and incense to the spirits of the dead. In some parts of Vietnam, there are also special Masses and processions that are held in honor of the dead.

Tết Trung Nguyên is a time for families and friends to come together and remember those who have passed away. It is also a time for reflection and prayer, and it is a way to honor the memory of loved ones.

5 Easy Ways to Find the Best Country to Live In

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How do you find the best country to live in?

It’s an impossible task, really; a great country for someone else might be a disaster for you. You might want low cost of living with universal healthcare and income equality. Maybe personal safety in an attractive destination where English is widely spoken. Perhaps you want a small country offering quality education in an international school system.

With nearly 200 countries to choose from, picking your top countries gets tough quickly. Here are a few ways to find the lifestyle that suits your needs:

5 Easy Ways to Find the Best Country to Live In

Are Americans Terrible at Geography? Name These Countries

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It’s been a running joke for decades that Americans are bad at geography. Anyone who’s seen people try to name a country on Jimmy Kimmel Live! knows how few average people can identify countries on a map, but we’re not much better at naming states, either.

We’ll make it easier here and ask you to name the country by a famous landmark. Give yourself one point for each country you can name. At the end, we’ll tell you if you’re a geography whiz or… an average American.

Are Americans Terrible at Geography? Name These Countries

This European Country Goes Mega Viral for Hiring Americans

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In 2022, 76,221 Americans moved to the European Union. The largest group, 12,220, moved to France. Still, many Americans who want to move to Europe are concerned about being able to afford some of the pricier destinations and are worried about finding a job. Most countries in Europe don’t offer a digital nomad visa for Americans working remotely, so you’re only able to stay 90 days at a stretch in the E.U.

That may be why 2.3 million people on TikTok have watched this video featuring a less-popular country that’s actively recruiting people in many job roles, including engineers, accountants, servers, retail workers, chefs, and more.

➤ This European Country Goes Mega Viral for Hiring Americans

Jen Barnett Expatsi
Co-founder at Expatsi | Website | + posts

Jen is the co-founder of Expatsi, a company that helps Americans move abroad. She created the Expatsi Test, an assessment that recommends countries for aspiring emigrants based on lifestyle data. Jen has an MBA from Emory University with concentrations in marketing and innovation. She's written for BusinessWeek, Health, Cooking Light, and Southern Living. Prior to Expatsi, she created Freshfully and Bottle & Bone—two businesses in the local food space—and spoke at TEDx on being brave. She's moving to Mexico in 2024, along with her husband and co-founder Brett, pitbull mix Squiggy, and three rotten cats. How can she help you move abroad?

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Jen Barnett Expatsi
Co-founder at Expatsi | Website | + posts

Jen is the co-founder of Expatsi, a company that helps Americans move abroad. She created the Expatsi Test, an assessment that recommends countries for aspiring emigrants based on lifestyle data. Jen has an MBA from Emory University with concentrations in marketing and innovation. She's written for BusinessWeek, Health, Cooking Light, and Southern Living. Prior to Expatsi, she created Freshfully and Bottle & Bone—two businesses in the local food space—and spoke at TEDx on being brave. She's moving to Mexico in 2024, along with her husband and co-founder Brett, pitbull mix Squiggy, and three rotten cats. How can she help you move abroad?