5 spiritual holidays around the world that honour the dead

Getty ImagesDía de los Muertos.

Despite all the candy and costumes today, Halloween started as a way to remember the dead.

However, not many other countries celebrate it. That said, many other countries do have holidays that pay homage to the deceased.

From a festival in Cambodia devoted to feeding dead relatives to Mexico’s famous Día de los Muertos, keep scrolling to learn about 5 celebrations around the world that celebrate the dearly departed.

Día de los Muertos – the famously colourful festival of the dead – has spread beyond Mexico

Dia de los muertosGokhan Balci/Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesTwo women celebrate Día de los Muertos in Moscow, Russia.

Dating back to the time of the Aztecs, the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos – or “Day of the Dead” – marks a celebration of dead loved ones.

People play music at cemeteries, dress in ornate, colourful costumes, and make flower-adorned altars from October 31 to November 2 to honour the souls of dead family members, whose spirits they believe return to Earth during this time.

Día de los Muertos is now celebrated in various pockets of the world, including the US and even Russia.

See more stunning pictures of the tradition here.

Lanterns and flowers line the streets of Japan for Obon, the Festival of the Dead

Obon festival japanEric Lafforgue/Art In All Of Us/Corbis via Getty ImagesA Japanese woman gazes at lanterns during Obon.

Obon, the Festival of the Dead in Japan, lasts for about five days around August 15, and begins with people lighting small fires outside their homes to guide spirits. Similar to Mexico’s day of the dead, Obon’s purpose is to honour deceased ancestors.

Festivities include eating special meals, cleaning up the gravestones of late family members, and – on the final day –lighting up the night sky with bonfires and lanterns to send off the spirits.

Obon’s Gozan Okuribi (or Daimonji) bonfire festival in Kyoto attracts thousands of visitors annually who come to watch traditional dances or light paper lanterns of their own.

Voodoo festival Fet Gede is Haiti’s way of celebrating the dead

Typically held in November, Haitians who practice voodoo (a spiritual belief system common in Haiti and other cultures) attempt to raise the dead on Fet Gede.

Throughout the month preceding the celebration, Haitians lay out gifts in front of their homes – like homemade beeswax candles and flowers – to make spirits feel welcome.

When the night of Fet Gede comes, Haitians make a pilgrimage to the cemetery followed by boisterous celebrations – voodoo churches, called peristyles, are filled with people dancing, singing, and feasting.

People in China burn fake money and incense to appease spirits during The Hungry Ghost Festival

Hungry ghost chinaMANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty ImagesA woman sets a paper statue of a Chinese deity on fire — a tactic used to keep spirits happy and bring good luck during Yulan.

The Hungry Ghost Festival – aka Yulan – is celebrated in many Buddhist and Taoist Asian countries on “the 15th night of the seventh lunar month.” Especially prevalent in China, the festival commemorates dead ancestors and unofficially goes on for the entire month, during which ghosts are believed to come up from their realm and wander Earth.

The Chinese appease the ghosts’ appetites by burning incense, money, setting up memorial tables, and cooking three meals a day – some of which they leave out for the ghosts to “eat.”

On the festival’s last day, people celebrate by floating colourful lanterns along rivers, which are meant to guide the spirits away.

Cambodians offer food to their dead relatives during the somber Pchum Ben festival

Pchum ben cambodiaTANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP/Getty ImagesWomen present food to the dead during Pchum Ben in Cambodia.

Every October in Cambodia, people celebrate Pchum Ben, an ancient festival in which the living “give back” to the dead.

In Khmer, the word “pchum” means to congregate, and “ben” means to collect and“cup or mould cooked rice into portions.” For 15 days in October, Cambodians come together and visit Buddhist temples with food offerings meant to aid spirits’ suffering in the afterlife.


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