Dressing up in costumes, going trick-or-treating, and carving pumpkins are fun activities that many Americans do for Halloween. Have you wondered if Halloween is celebrated in the countries where our exchange students come from?
The Chinese celebrate the Hungry Ghost Month in July or August, where they honor their ancestors and appease ghosts. During this time, they perform ceremonies to prevent the wrath of ghosts, such as lighting incense, burning fake paper money to “give” to ghosts who need it, and “feeding” hungry ghosts by leaving food for them.
The Ghost Month tradition is linked to Taoism, a religion in China. According to Taoism, the gates of the underworld are opened at the start of Ghost Month, and hungry ghosts roam around finding food or getting revenge. On the last day of Ghost Month, many people float river lanterns, since ghosts are thought to follow the lanterns away.
In Spain, Halloween is a three-day celebration that starts of on October 31st with “Dia de las Brujas” (Day of the Witches) and ends with “Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) on November 2nd. The Spanish version of Halloween focuses on honoring the dead, rather than being a commercial holiday. Customs and rituals are performed during this time, including visiting the grave of lost loved ones.
Around Spain, you’ll see other activities like Halloween fiestas, festivals, pumpkin carving, costume parties, and more!
Halloween in Thailand is usually overshadowed by their annual Loi Krathong Festival, but Halloween celebrations are brought to Thailand in areas where Western expats and tourists spend time. Thailand does have a culture of ghosts and supernatural legends. In Thailand, you may see miniature spirit houses, which provide shelter for spirits. People will light incense and place offerings such as food or flowers to ghosts in the spirit houses, so the spirit will protect their home and bring good blessings.
If you’re looking to celebrate a Western-style Halloween in Thailand, Bangkok is known for its Halloween festivities and parties!
Like in Thailand, Western-style Halloween is sometimes celebrated in big cities or where tourists and expats brought the tradition. Traditionally, Vietnamese people believe that when someone dies, their soul goes to the afterlife where it is judged. Souls in the afterlife are able to be released when the living prays for them.
They celebrate a festival called Vu Lan, where they perform these prayer rituals, so hungry souls will return to their home and gather with family. Incense is burned and meals are provided for souls of family members and wandering souls, so they can rest in peace.
Student exchange is a great way to share Western-style Halloween traditions with a student and learn about how Halloween is celebrated in their home country. If you aren’t hosting a student currently and are interested, it’s not too late! We are currently matching students for the Spring 2018 semester, and you have the chance to share new experiences with them too. Visit our photo listing to meet our Spring students and check back regularly to meet any new students added. Contact us today to find out how you can change one student’s life through education and cultural exchange!