Costume Party Ideas:
Customs around the World :
As far back as the 5000 BC, cultures
around the world have held community celebrations to
honor those who have passed on. Today, many cultures
around the world still honor the dead as they did in
the ancient times.
Above, you will see young
male villagers dressed up at spirits and ghosts,
parading the streets at the festival of Phi Ta Khon
in northern Thailand. At the end of the festival,
prizes are awarded to the best costume.
In Austria, some people will leave bread, water and
a lighted lamp on the table before retiring on
Halloween night. The reason for this is because it
was once believed such items would welcome the dead
souls back to earth on a night which for the
Austrians was considered to be brimming with strong
The Belgians believe that it is unlucky for a black
cat to cross one’s path and also unlucky if it
should enter a home or travel on a ship. The custom
in Belgium on Halloween night is to light candles in
memory of dead relatives.
Modern Halloween celebrations in Canada began with
the arrival of Scottish and Irish immigrants in the
1800s. Jack O'Lanterns are carved and the
festivities include parties, trick-or-treating and
the decorating of homes with pumpkins and corn
In Czechoslovakia, chairs are placed by the fireside
on Halloween night. There is one chair for each
living family member and one for each family
Unlike most nations of the world, Halloween is not
celebrated by the French in order to honor the dead
and departed ancestors. It is regarded as an
"American" holiday in France and was virtually
unknown in the country until around 1996.
In 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
The Halloween celebration in Hong Kong is known as "Yue
Lan" (Festival of the Hungry Ghosts) and is a time
when it is believed that spirits roam the world for
twenty-four hours. Some people burn pictures of
fruit or money at this time, believing these images
would reach the spirit world and bring comfort to
In Italy, the sine qua non of All Souls'
celebrations is a cookie called "Ossi di Morto," or
"Bones of the Dead":
Ossi di Morto
1 1/4 cups flour
10 oz almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1 oz pine nuts
1 TBSP butter
A shot glass full of brandy or grappa
The grated zest of half a lemon
One egg and one egg white, lightly beaten
Blanch the almonds, peel them, and chop them finely
(you can do this in a blender, but be careful not to
over-chop and liquefy).
Combine all the ingredients except the egg in a
bowl, mixing them with a spoon until you have a firm
dough. Dust your hands and work surface with flour,
and roll the dough out between your palms to make a
"snake" about a half inch thick. Cut it into
two-inch long pieces on the diagonal. Put on greased
and floured cookie sheet, brush with the beaten egg,
and bake them in a 330-350 oven for about 20
minutes. Serve them cold. Because they are a dry,
hard cookie, it is good to serve these with
something to drink.
The Japanese celebrate the "Obon Festival" (also
known as "Matsuri" or "Urabon") which is similar to
Halloween festivities in that it is dedicated to the
spirits of ancestors. Special foods are prepared and
bright red lanterns are hung everywhere. Candles are
lit and placed into lanterns which are then set
afloat on rivers and seas. During the "Obon
Festival," a fire is lit every night in order to
show the ancestors where their families might be
found. "Obon" is one of the main occasions during
the Japanese year when the dead are believed to
return to their birthplaces. Memorial stones are
cleaned and community dances performed. The "Obon
Festival" takes place during July or August.
In Korea, the festival similar to Halloween is known
as "Chusok." It is at this time that families thank
their ancestors for the fruits of their labor. The
family pays respect to these ancestors by visiting
their tombs and making offerings of rice and fruits.
The "Chusok" festival takes place in the month of
In Sweden, Halloween is known as "Alla Helgons Dag"
and is celebrated from October 31 until November 6.
As with many other holidays, "Alla Helgons Dag" has
an eve which is either celebrated or becomes a
shortened working day. The Friday prior to All
Saint's Day is a short day for universities while
school-age children are given a day of vacation.
In the Philippines people light candles in the
memory of their dead relatives.
In Poland doors and windows are left open to welcome
the spirits or the visiting souls.
In Portugal they have feasts of wine and chestnuts
at the cemetery. In Portugal they bake special sugar
cakes with cinnamon and herb flavoring.
In Russia the blue cat is said to bring good luck.
Blue cats such as Russian Blue, British Blue and