Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Unusual Halloween Traditions.

Pumpkin, Halloween, Halloweenkuerbis  Since I pretty much grew up in the United States, I'm most familiar with carving pumpkins and going trick or treating but what about other traditions?

In the Hispanic culture, Mexico, and Latin America they celebrate El Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead.  This celebration begins on October 31 and covers three days to celebrate those who have passed on. 

It is believed that the spirits of the loved ones return home at this time of the year, so families construct an alter filled with candy, flowers, photographs, candles, and they burn candles to guide the loved one home. On November 2nd, families gather at the local cemetery for a picnic and to talk about those they have lost.

In several northern cities, people celebrate "Mischief night" where tricks are played on people, houses and trees are covered with toilet paper, Or things are egged.  Something I never did but have seen happen in a few places I've lived.  This celebration can occur as early as the night before Halloween and as late as November 4th.  In some places, the practice has become so destructive and violent, volunteers help patrol.

In a handful of cities, when  knocking on the door, people are expected to say "Tricks for Treats" and then tell a joke to get the treat.  It doesn't matter if the joke is bad, they just want to hear a joke and every child is rewarded with candy.

Over in the UK, people build huge bonfires and then throw vegetables, stones, and nuts into the fire to frighten spirits away while learning a bit about their futures.  Some beliefs on this included one where if the stone seemingly disappeared from the fire by morning, the person was doomed to die within the next year while if lovers threw nuts into the fire and they exploded, their marriage was doomed.

In Ireland they offer barmbrack which is a fruit cake with muslin wrapped trinkets inside.  These trinkets are said to be indications of the future such as if you find a ring, it means romance is in your future. In Scotland, they believe you should take the peel off an apple in one long strip to throw behind you.  The shape shows the first letter of your future spouses name.

Of course there is this one.  When I was in middle school, I used to trick or treat for UNICEF to earn money to help them.  It also gave me an excuse to go out with my siblings in costume to enjoy the evening. This tradition is still going strong since its inception back in 1950 in Philadelphia.  This event has earned over $118 million since then.

Due to the uncertainty of trick or treating at stranger's houses, a new tradition has started.  People gather in parking lots offering a "Trunk or Treating" where children can still go trick or treating in a safer environment while still being supervised.

In Austria, you are expected to leave bread out and the lights on all night long between October 30th and November 8th.  It is believed these items will welcome the dead back to the earth for the one week they can return. In Germany, they believe the same thing, except they put away all the knives so the spirits are unable to hurt themselves.

I hope you enjoyed learning more about a few unusual Halloween traditions.  I hope you have a good evening.  Let me know what you think.

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