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Halloween has a special place when it comes to combining religious practice and modern-day fun. It is unique. The Celtics lived is what is now Great Britain and Northern France aroun 1200 BC. The Celtics worshipped nature and had many gods, with the sun god as their favorite. The Celts had a great celebration for the sun and to bring in new crops on November 1st. It was celebrated with a festival and marked the end of the "season of the sun" and the beginning of "the season of darkness and cold.".

On the eve before Nov 1, that is oct 31 it was believed that all the dead people were called together . The dead would take different forms, with the bad spirits taking the form of animals. The most evil taking the form of cats. On October 31st after the crops were all harvested and stored for the long winter the cooking fires in the homes would be extinguished.

The Druids, the Celtic priests, would meet in the hilltop in the dark oak forest (oak trees were considered sacred). The Druids would light new fires and offer sacrifices of crops and animals. As they danced around the the fires, the season of the sun passed and the season of darkness would begin. Of course Halloween is also a day for the innocent—the children. In the Western countries, specially in the US and Europe, children dress up in their favorite costumes, scary, hairy and fairy and go around “trick or treating” for candies and goodies.

Adults have parties with something stronger than candy and also dress up as ghouls and “special” people. Looks like Zombies are the rage these days, what with multiple and successful TV series about the so called undead.

Here is how Halloween, also called All Souls Day, is celebrated around the world.

Austrians place bread and water on a table to be left out with a lit lamp for the spirits of dead souls who rise on Halloween, as residents of this country believe Halloween is when cosmic energies are at their highest.

In Belgium, it is unlucky for a black cat to not only cross your path but, also to enter one’s home or travel on a ship. Halloween is celebrated by the lighting of candles in remembrance of dead loved ones.

“Teng Chieh” is the name of Halloween in China. Food and water are placed in front of photographs of the departed and candles and lanterns are lit to help guide the souls as they travel the Earth on Halloween night. Worshippers in Buddhist Temples create what are called “boats of law,” which are paper lamps that are burned in the evening hours for two reasons: One is the remembrance of the dead, the other to release the “pretas,” or the spirits of those who died as a result of an accident or drowning and whose bodies were never buried. The Chinese believe that by lighting these lamps it will help the spirits ascend on to Heaven. It is thought that “pretas” who walk among the living are dangerous, so ceremonies are held to help them find peace, as monks recite sacred verses and offer fruits for the lost souls.

In Czechoslovakia, people place a chair around a fireplace on Halloween night, one for each living family member and one for each of their spirits.

Unlike most nations, France does not celebrate Halloween – to the French, it is simply considered an American holiday and its customs of celebrating the dead were virtually unknown until about 1996.

The people of Germany put away their knives on Halloween night to protect the spirits of the dearly departed.

“Yue Lan” (The Festival of the Hungry Ghosts) is the Halloween celebration in Hong Kong. This is a time when spirits roam the Earth for a period of twenty-four hours. Some people burn photographs of fruit and money, believing that these items will reach the ghosts in the other world and bring them peace and comfort.

“Alla Helgons Dag” is the Swedish version of Halloween. The holiday lasts from October 31 through November 6 the Friday prior to “All Saints Day,” which is a shortened work day for universities, while school children are given a day of vacation.

Koreans celebrate Halloween in August. People visit the tombs of their ancestors with fruits and rice and pay respect for their labors. This festival is called “Chusok.” In the past, children in England would take large beetroots and carved designs, carrying these “punkies” from door to door, asking for money while singing the “Punkie Night Song.” In some rural areas of England, turnip lanterns are placed on gateposts to help protect against evil spirits on Halloween night. Another English custom was to throw stones, vegetables and nuts into a bonfire to frighten away spirits. These symbols were also used as fortune-telling tools. It was believed that if a pebble that was thrown into the fire was not visible the next morning then the person who threw it would not survive another year. If the nuts thrown into the fire by a young couple exploded it would signify a bitter marriage. But for the most part England stopped celebrating Halloween with the spread of Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation. Since the new religion did not believe in saints, the people saw no reason to celebrate All Saint’s Day. But, in recent years English children seem to adopt American customs by adorning costumes and going trick or treating.

In America, Halloween is also a night for pranks and giving a good scare. So be ready for all the things that go bump in the night and have a safe, happy Halloween.

Halloween falls just before two important religious holidays in Italy that come at the beginning of November. The first day of the month is Ognissanti or Tutti i Santi—called All Saints’ Day in English—and is a day dedicated to honoring all of the saints and martyrs who have died for the Catholic faith. In Italy,

Ognissanti is a national holiday, and you’ll actually find most businesses closed. The faithful attend mass and celebrate the day together with family, a tradition often forgotten in American culture.

The following day, November 2nd, is called Il Giorno dei Morti or, as is often the case in Italy, simply “Tutti i Morti.” (In America we call it All Souls’ Day, probably since “The Day of the Dead” doesn’t have a good ring to it!) It is a day dedicated to remembering all of our loved ones who have passed away. Cemeteries are crowded on both Ognissanti and Il Giorno dei Morti as Italians pay respect to their ancestors who have since departed by cleaning and decorating their graves with flowers, wreaths and votive candles Names for All Saints/Souls day Allerheiligenfeest -- Dutch Allerheiligen -- German Ognissanti --Italy Semua Orang Kudus Hari -- Malay Sent? s? thuk w?n -- Thai Usie dušy DZIE? – Belarussian Alla själar dag – Swedish.