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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 07/13/10

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

HALLOWEEN AROUND THE WORLD

   As one of the world's oldest holidays, Halloween is still celebrated today in many countries around our blue planet.  It is in  North America that it has most of the popularity.  Every year, 65 percent of Americans decorated their home and offices for Halloween. The only other holiday to exceed it is Christmas.  Halloween is the holiday when the most mount of candy is sold and is second only to Christmas again.  So lets start our country countdown and see what they do for Halloween.

  1. Austria- some people will leave bread, water and a lighted lamp on the table before going to bed on Halloween night.  They do this because it was once believed such things would welcome the dead souls back to earth, on a night which is believed by the Austrian people, to be brimming with strong cosmic energies.
  2. Belgium- they believe that it is unlucky for a black cat to cross your path and also unlucky if it should enter a home or travel on a ship.  The custom on Halloween night is to light candles in memory of dead relatives.
  3. Canada-Halloween celebrations in Canada began with the arrival of Scottish and Irish immigrants in the 1800's.  Pumpkins are carved and the festivities include parties, trick-or-treating and the decorating of homes, just like we do here.
  4. China-Halloween is know as "Teng Chieh".  Food and water are placed in front of photographs of family members who have passed away, lanterns are lit in order to light the paths of the spirits as they travel the earth on Halloween night.  Worshippers in Buddhist temples fashion boats from paper in many different sizes, they are then burned in the evening.  The purpose of this custom is as a remembrance of the dead and in order to free the spirits in order that they might ascend to heaven.  They call these spirits "pretas", they are the ones who died as a result of an accident or drowning and whose bodies were never buried.  The presence of "pretas" among the living is thought to be dangerous.  Different societies are formed to carry out ceremonies for the "pretas", which includes the lighting of lanterns.  Monks are invited to recited sacred verses and offerings of fruit are presented.
  5. Czechoslovakia-chairs are placed by the fireplace on Halloween night.  There is one chair for each living family member and one for each family member's spirit.
  6. England- in the early years children made "punkies" out of large beetroots, upon which they carved a design of them.  Then, they would carry their "punkies" through the streets while sing the "Punkie Night Song" as they knocked on doors and asked for money.  In rural areas, turnip lanterns  were placed on gateposts to protect homes from the spirits who roamed on Halloween.  Another custom was to toss objects such as stones, vegetable and nuts into a bonfire to frighten away spirits.  These sacrifices were employed as fortune telling tools.  If a pebble thrown into the fire at night was no longer visible in the morning, then it was believed that the person who tossed the pebble would not survive another year.  If nuts tossed into the fire by young lovers then exploded, it signified a rough marriage.  The English ceased celebrating Halloween with the spread of Protestant Reformation.  Since followers of the new religion did not believe in Saints, they saw no reason to celebrate the Eve of All Saints' Day.  However, in recent years, American "trick or treating", together with the donning of costumes for going door-to-door, has become a popular pastime among English children.  Many adults of older generations have little ideas as to why they are being asked for candy and are usually not prepared to accommodated their small callers.
  7. France-Halloween is not celebrated by the French, in order to honor the dead and departed ancestors.  It is regarded as an "American" holiday.  It was virtually unknown in the country until around 1996.
  8. Germany-the people put away their knives on Halloween night.  The reason for this is because they do not want to risk harm befalling the returning spirits.
  9. Hong Kong-Halloween is know as "Yue Lan" (Festival of the Hungry Ghosts). It is believed that spirits roam the world for 24 hours.  Some burn pictures of fruit or money, believing these images would reach the spirit world and bring comfort to the ghosts.
  10. Ireland-believed to be the birthplace of Halloween, it is still celebrated as it is in the U.S.  In rural areas, bonfires are lit as they were in the days of the Celts and children dress up in costumes to spend the night "trick or treating".  After the visiting , people attend parties with neighbors and friends.  Many games are played, including "snap-apple," in which an apple on a string is tied to a doorframe or tree, and players attempt to take a bite out of it.  Parents often arrange treasure hunts with sweets or pastries as the treasure.  They also play a card game where cards are laid face-down with sweets or coins beneath them.  When a child selects a card, he or she receives whatever the prize might be.  A traditional food is eaten called "barnbrack."  A type of fruitcake with a muslin-wrapped treat baked inside, so it is said, can foretell the future of the one who finds it.  If the prize is a ring, then that person will soon be wed and a piece of straw means a prosperous year.  Children are also known to play tricks upon their neighbors.  One of which is know as "knock-a-dolly," where they knock on the doors of their neighbors but run away before the door is opened.