Writing the article I started with the feeling that every culture and religion has the habit of celebrating of the memory of people who passed away. In Poland, for example, we celebrate All Saints Day and All Souls’ Day. I wondered how it looks in other countries, including those of non-Christian ones. I must admit that I experienced a little surprise. You want to know why? What are the most interesting customs of the world associated with this holiday? I invite you to read this text. Don’t afraid of text size. This is because i really gathered a lot of informatons.

That’s what surprised me, it was the fact that All Saints Day is typically a Christian festival and not always has its counterpart in other cultures. In Indonesia, the rituals vary from religion. In Qatar, there is no general tradition of remembering the dead. In some parts of Iran Nowruz holidays (feast of nature) is also a time of remembrance of the dead and people visit their graves. In Japan, they have the festival of O-bon. It’s something like the All Saints Day, but it’s rather closer to feast of Dziady (Grandfathers).

Lights on cementery in Polish city Lubin; taking and ownership:

When in Poland it is a time of reflection, and in Germany the day when you cannot arrange parties, in Mexico and Ecuador it’s joyful and a party time. Similarly, it is for Halloween in USA, Spain and India. It is a holiday celebrated by some other faiths and non-believers, as a form of worship and respect to people who passed away. No matter what is the approach to the subject we are dealing with many traditions and rituals, about which I will tell you further.


I am a Pole, so at the beginning I decided to deepen knowledge on this holiday in Poland. Its tradition dates back several centuries. All Saints Day was celebrated on November 1 and initiated by Pope Gregory IV as early as 837 years A.D. In this way they wanted to honor all Christians who have been saved and go to heaven. In the 998. A.D. St. Odilon, abbot of the Benedictines of Cluny in France, established on November 2 All Souls’ Day. This is the day of remembrance of the dead and pray for those who are in purgatory. Purgatory is a state of painful purification after death, because not all immediately go to heaven. In Purgatory, there are people who die in God’s friendship, but still imperfectly are purified. The prayers of the living are supposed to help them.

November 1st is a day off from work. This has not changed also in times of PRL, but officially tried to give it a secular character, perpetuating the name of Day of the Dead.

Lights on the cementary in city Gdansk; taking and
Lights on the cementary in city Gdansk; taking and

During these two days whole families visit cemeteries to decorate the graves of loved ones with flowers and candles standing. There are held at that time special Masses for war heroes, artists and various social activists. This is the time when all the cemeteries are lit with the glow of lights. People come to cemeteries not only to put flowers, but also to pray, to reminisce about the dead and talk to them. There is a perception that this day the souls of the dead can contact us. A visit to the cemetery always forces us to reflect. Here, most is felt the presence of death in human life. Someone who that day for some reason has not visited the burial of loved ones can light a candle at the cross, which is located at each cemetery, which has a symbolic meaning.

One tradition is collection of money for the necropolis. In rebounding conducted in cemeteries are collected money for the restoration of old monuments and historic cemeteries. In Warsaw’s Powazki cemetery participate in them artists, politicians and people known to the public space.

Honey Turkish, traditional sweet in Kracow during the All Saints' Day
Honey Turkish, traditional sweet in Kracow during the All Saints’ Day

For over a century cemeteries (mainly in Warsaw and Cracow), you can also visit the many stalls and buy on them e.g. “Honey Turkish” called cadaverous (pieces of caramelized sugar with the addition of essential oils with embedded pieces of crushed walnuts), the Lord’s skin (longitudinal candy with gum arabic, sugar fine, protein, egg, and orange flower oil) and bagels on strings. They are bought mainly for children, to sweeten their stay in the cemeteries.

The Lord's skin and bagels on strings, traditional sweet in Warsaw during the All Saints' Day
The Lord’s skin and bagels on strings, traditional sweet in Warsaw during the All Saints’ Day

The All Saint’s Day involves a variety of folk rites and superstitions. Currently, people give to the church so called wypominki in the form of money and cards with the names of the deceased, asking that the whole Church pray for them. In the past it was believed that beggars sitting in front of churches and cemeteries (called dziady) maintain contact with the afterlife and that is why they were asked for prayers for the dead. In return, they received a specially baked small breads (the so-called. powałki or heretyczki), porridge, meats and cheeses. Per tradition, they were baked loaves as many were dead in the family. Bread was also received by the parish priest to pray for those who already do not have any relatives. Breads always had to be baked a day or two earlier, since on 1 November in the oven meetw the souls of dead ancestors. On that day, the whole family sat for the dinner and prayer at a table covered with a white cloth, which also laid the bread for the dead when they arrived.

Feast of Grandfathers (Dziady), source of picture:
Feast of Grandfathers (Dziady), source of picture:

This custom came from the pre-Christian times, when they arranged in cemeteries so called celebrations od dziady (grandfathers), or feasts, during which they induced the dead. On the graves were placed pots of honey and grits, eggs. People poured over their shoulder vodka or sprinkled with it graves. In this way, the living feasted with the dead. It was believed at that in return they will secure prosperity for the family and fruitful harvest. Interestingly, in Spain they still practice the baking of soul bread, which you can read about later in this text.

Another tradition was the bonfires to indicate the wandering souls of the way and let them warm up. Later, the fire began to burn on the graves, which is practiced to this day in the form of snitches and candles. Bonfires were lit at the crossroads as well to protect living against the visit of demons and ghosts condemned for suicide, drowned or convicted murderers to death.


From the traditions of Slavic Dziady (Grandfathers) and the Celtic festival of Samhain derives the Anglo-Saxon Halloween, during which terrible costumes supposed to scare away the wandering spirits are seen. Halloween is celebrated on the evening of October 31, before the Day of All Saints, not only in the US but also in Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland. In contrast to the All Saints’ Day it is not an official bank holiday and probably derives from the Celtic festival of Samhain. Two thousand years ago, on the night of October 31 to November 1 came down spirits of the dead to the ground in search of a house to live in. It was meant to scare away the bad ones and at the same time ensure a good harvest and was placed food in front of houses. It refers to this custom probably contemporary for fun trick or treat, during which children go from house to house with baskets for candy. When someone does not want to give candy, he receives from children in return trick.

Fun trick or treat, source of picture:
Fun trick or treat, source of picture:

At the same time Celts in dirty old clothes roamed the villages. They burned the fire, and danced in strange costumes, to recall the brightness and scare away demons. Thus, probably it became rooted in the contemporary tradition of dressing up in Halloween costumes that are bizarre or scary characters such as vampires, witches and so on.


Later Halloween under the influence of Christianity has been superseded by the feast of All Saints. In the 40s of the twentieth century Irish immigrants in the United States brought it back. The first Halloween celebrations took place on October 31, 1920 was in the city of Anoka in Minnesota. The Tradition continued in subsequent years, and in the second half of the twentieth century, the festival came to western Europe. The name Halloween comes probably from the abbreviated name of “All Hallows’ Eve,” or the eve of All Saints.

Taking and ownership of picture:
Taking and ownership of picture:

During the event, various games are organized. One of them is apple bobbing. A person who wants to safe own happiness in the coming year, must without hands pick one apple of the bowl. You can also eat on strings hanging fruit and pastries. A similar effect can be achieved by jumping over candles. They cannot extinguish. If we want to assure ourselves lucky in love, we must put nut to a blazing fire. If they burst with a bang, we find true love. In addition, there are organized all kinds of divination.

Apple bobbing game, taking and ownership of picture:
Apple bobbing game, taking and ownership of picture:

Referring to the Celtic rites, in the windows or doors of the houses are put lamps in the form of candles in hollowed pumpkins (jack o’lantern). For the Irish peasants, it meant a will-o’-the-wisp considered to be the souls of tragically deceased. During the mysterious rites they are called to release souls from the bodies of black cats and bats.


As mentioned earlier in Spain on All Saints’ Day they bake what is called requiem bread. On November 1 they bake sweet balled panellets (mashed sweet potatoes and ground almonds, dipped in before frying the seeds of pine trees). In Barcelona, the Catalan capital while impaled them dried fruit, and cake adds spices, cocoa or ground chestnuts.


At  2 November on All Souls’ Day they are preparing huesos de santo – “sacred bones”, that are fried in olive oil small flat cakes with ground almonds, honey and sugar. They are eaten after returning from the cemetery. Formerly it was believed that in this way frees the soul from purgatory, and eating “bone holy” means love to their loved ones.


Another tradition is soup – pumpkin stew cooked over a slow fire by the hostess of house. The fire is supposed to symbolize home. The recipe for the soup is as follows: first broil in a pan tomatoes, green pepper, chopped onion and garlic, then toss into the pot and add the pumpkin, potatoes, big bones and chickpeas, season with salt and pepper and pour water on ¾, and cook for an hour. After dinner, young people most often go out for the parties in the style of Halloween.


As in Poland on November 1, people visit cemeteries to put flowers on the graves of the dead and to pray. It is a little difficult, because the Spanish cemeteries increasingly resemble parks with tombs of plaques. In Spain cremation is becoming more popular. Instead of candles they use electric lamps.


But still in some places they practice lighting bonfires to guide the stray souls. In some cities, you can also find the so-called. fossores brothers who take care of abandoned graves and pray.


In the cathedrals are often exposed relics of saints. Customs vary from region to region and that of the martyr is linked to a given city. In the province of Soria (in northern Spain) they still practice on the night of 1 to 2 November so called procession of souls. During the procession, residents divided on bachelors, his wife and others, carrying candles, singing traditional songs and establish prayers for our Father. The priest at the end of the procession distributes biscuits and wine. Near the city of Alicante oin the night before the November 2 people burn candles in their homes, so the souls of deceased loved ones they have found their way home. By contrast, near Teruel in Aragon they ring the bells. Once it was believed that on this night you should eat as much as you can to leave the least space for bad lost souls.


It’s funny how much of a role food and light plays on this day. It is no different in the case of Mexicans. They can connect at the same time having joy with the moment of reverie. Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead is celebrated for two days. November 1 is called. El Dia de Inocentes (Day of the Innocents), during which it is worshiped mostly dead children. Adult deceased is dedicated to All Souls Day on November 2.

Celebration of the Day of the Dead dates to 3,000 years old and come from the pre-Columbian traditions of the peoples of Central America, such as the Mayans, the Aztecs, Nahua, Totonac people and Purepecha. It is a joyous time in Mexico, because that day living can commune with the dead relatives who visit them.


According to the solar calendar Aztec Day of the Dead fared 9 month called Tlaxochimaco (birth of flowers) and was dedicated to the “Queen of Death”, or goddess Mictecacíhuatl (the wife of the god Mictlantecuhtli, Lord of the Land of the Dead). In the sixteenth century as a result of the Spanish colonization of the date was postponed to the beginning of November, when it was in the Spanish calendar fared All Saints Day. The combination of Christian traditions with pagan derives contemporary Dia de Muertos.

What distinguishes Mexican celebration is primarily approach to death, which was personified by them. Most often it can be found in the form of a skeleton woman in an elegant dress and hat with feathers, called the “Catrina”. Death was and is the heroine of Mexican prints. The most famous are those by Jose Guadalupe Posada, who presented it in everyday situations, as a vendor, doctor, drunk, maid etc. They were mocking characters, like contemporary short satirical skits (rimas or calaveritas) with human skulls and dressed human skeletons. derision is most often directed at politicians. Death takes on the personality of the caricature of a living person and righteous rhymes from beyond the grave.


Its main symbol is the calavera – skull. The Aztecs already had a special place of worship the skulls called Tzompantli, where they placed the skulls on sticks. Today it is getting out of paper, wax, plastic and all kinds of materials available. Family and friends eat sugar skull calaveras de dulce, often flavored with tequila, scarlet or chocolate. Besides, like it is in Poland and Spain, is baked a special cake yeast bread (pan de muerto).


Mexicans as Europeans use this time to visit and clean the graves. They decorate them ith many flowers and wreaths of sunflowers or roses. A special flower is called the dead flower (flor de muertos), a Mexican variety of marigold (cempasúchitl or cempaxóchitl), which was grown even in pre-Columbian times. Some flowers reach a height of up to 1 meter. According to the beliefs they have the power to carry the dead to the altars.


Mexicans have a deep-rooted belief that the living must take care of the dead. For this purpose they building in the central part of the house special altars with offerings (ofrendas). Among them may find items belonging to the deceased, the deceased bread, a glass of water and plates of food, and in the case of the dead adults also bottles of liquor and cigars. On the altar must also find a mandatory photograph of the deceased. There are always placed on it images of saints and the Virgin Mary. In the dead space they are communicating with the living. Alive must ensure that the deceased had eaten and show them the way to the altar. To do this, they put wax candles called veladoras on the alter. They Light a candle, according to native beliefs it helps the dead cross the river, behind which lies the realm of the dead and they can get back home; therefore, the candle is placed in the name of the deceased, that he knew exactly where to follow.


Besides family aspect of the Mexican Day of the Dead is primarily a party. Behind the walls of the cemetery they are organized verbeny-street fiesta with music and singing. In Mexico City, the main square – Zocalo, is built into a whole dead “town” with numerous installations and a special artistic program.


The streets are full of stalls of sweets such sugar skulls, chocolate coffins, skeletons marzipan etc. Some people eat the skulls with their names. Children dress up as ghosts and, like the Halloween candy gather in their homes. Regardless of the age and origin of the period of celebration of All Saints in Mexico it is one of the more colorful and happiest periods of the year, which attracts crowds of tourists.

Taking and ownership of picture:
Taking and ownership of picture:


The Japanese do not celebrate the typical Day of the Dead, as it is in Europe. They have something like a Slavic Grandfathers (Dziady) and call it a celebration of O-bon. Its tradition dates back 500 years, which was celebrated in Japan even before the introduction of Buddhism. O-bon lasts for three days in mid-August. Originally it accounted for the 15th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. Currently, in different regions take place at different times. The Japanese believe that at this time the dead visit their loved ones. They divide ghosts into three groups: the ancestors, people who died tragically and gaki (hungry ghosts).


In Japan, the feast day of the dead is not a bank holiday. Nevertheless, in that time, whole families flock to their homes to make offerings to the temple and meet with the spirits of the dead. On this occasion on the Buddhist altars in front of the house called butsudan food is placed. However, in the middle are hung lanterns, which are to show the way the wandering spirits. Some families for the first day of O-bon set vegetables figures imitating animals in front of their house. In this way, they give the spirits a means of transport from the land of the dead. Later they are transferred to the altar.


In addition, on the Japanese first day they visit the graves of the dead, but they do not resemble a typical cemetery, due to the influence of Buddhism. They are usually the Buddhist temples in the form of stone obelisks. Just as in the culture of Christian graves are decorated with flowers, and later with them praying, burning incense. Generally practiced is also the money given to the spirits gaki in the temple. It is believed that these spirits take food only from the monks.


Quite an interesting tradition is bon odori dance. It is especially spectacular in Kyoto. A group of people dressed in summer kimono called a yukata dancing in the evening in gardens, parks and squares at the temples. Is typically selected places that are to constitute the boundary between the living and the dead. The dance is accompanied by the sounds of drums and you can join it at any time. In this way they greet the arriving dead. The dance steps bon odori vary for different areas of Japan. Bon dori refers to the dance, which was performed by monk Mokuren Sonja, a descendant of Sakyamuni in thanks for enlightening mother, who was hungry spirit gaki.


The third, the last day of the O-bon Japanese let go on the water paper lanterns (chōchin) that led the souls of the dead back to their land. This custom is called tōrō nagashi and is a kind of tourist attraction. Therefore, the O-bon festival is often called the Lantern Festival.


Kyoto also gained fame because of the different traditions. On August 16, surrounded the city five hills are lit bonfires, which are arranged successively in the shape of the Chinese character 大 (dai-great) on the hill Higashiyama, signs myō” 妙  and” „hō” 法  (symbolizing the wonderful teaching of the Buddha) in the hills Mandoro and Daikokuten , boats on the hill Funa Nishigamo, the next character “dai” on top of Okita and torii gates on the hill Mandara. This ceremony is called Gozan-no okuri-bi, and is popularly known as Daimonji-yaki.



Even more interesting are Chinese habits, which combiwar tradition with modern Halloween. The Chinese Catholic as Europeans celebrate All Saints Day on November 1. While outside the Chinese calendar, there are still Ancestors Day and the Feast of Hungry Ghosts.

Feast of Ancestors, or Qingming or Ching Ming Festival is celebrated per the Chinese calendar, 106 days after the winter solstice, that is, from 5 to 7 April. Of these three festivals, it is the most important and is a bank holiday. Even before the celebration they are tidying up the graves. During the visit to the graves of Chinese Qingming they lay gifts to ancestors and light incense. The oldest member of the family lights candles before the tomb. In this way they want themselves to gain the favor of spirits and happiness in the coming year.


It is commonly confessed that after the death of the dead lead a second life. Very often there are spaced tables outside with food and drink and flowers puts the ashes of the deceased. It is an expression of common feasting with dead. It is very easy to organize it, that the deceased is incinerated, and their ashes arestored in wooden urns and placed in a compartment on one of the shelves in the library-like room. Each box is described and often accompanied with pot of tea and plants.


Outside the city is practiced burning money and special cardboard models of houses, cars and other things of everyday use. In this way, things are sent to the underworld, to fully meet the needs of the deceased and ensure their protection. In addition, they put in the water a small reed boats with lanterns, which are to show to the way the lost spirits.


In the major cities, it is popular, especially among young people gaining Halloween. More and more widespread it becomes a habit of dressing for the dark characters from the movie and go out for parties.


While the Festival of Hungry Ghosts, which is called Zhōngyuánjié is placed on the 15th day of the seventh month. Per Chinese beliefs ghosts arrive this month for 30 days to visit the living. These are usually the spirits of people who no longer have living relatives and wander the earth in search of food and drink. To satisfy them, as in the case of holidays Qingming Jie Buddhists and Taoists pray, burn incense and consist gifts. In contrast to the Holy Ancestors during the Feast of Hungry Ghosts a tribute to all the dead, and not just ancestors.


In Portugal, as in other Christian countries they have All Saints Day on November 1. Apart from the traditional visiting of the cemeteries to lay flowers on the graves, they are still preserved traditions from the time of the Slavic Grandfathers or the Celtic festival of Samhain.


One of them is “Pao-por-Deus” or “bread for God.” It used to be cake distributed to the poor on All Saints’ Day. On this day children also went in groups to houses and sang traditional songs. In return, they received fruit, almond cakes. Over time, this tradition turned into something along the lines of the American play “trick or treat”. Children under 10 years of age in the early hours of the morning walking around the houses and collect candies.


In Bulgaria, where the dominant religion is Bulgarian Orthodox Church, they do not celebrate the Day of All Saints. While on the November 3 celebrates the Archangel All Souls’ Day in honor of the fallen soldiers of the homeland. Military cemeteries and at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Sofia are given wreaths. On this day Bulgarians visit cemeteries, to the graves of their loved ones to light the candles and pour them some red wine. Then you can drink one glass but not from the same bottle. The wine symbolizes the blood of Christ. People also often bring food. In this way, symbolically they are feasting with the dead. The Days requiem in Bulgaria is celebrated several times a year. These celebrated on the last Saturday before the Feast of Pentecost (Whitsun) are often referred to cherries All Soul’s Day due to the habit of bringing cherries to the grave.



In the case of Indonesia, where there are many religions such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity it is cultivated in the memory of the dead and pray for them according to the traditions and customs of their religion and. Traditions vary depending on the province or region. Celebrated here is also on November 10 a holiday dedicated to national heroes.


In the Philippines as in other Catholic countries the Day of the Dead is on November 1. Filipinos then visit cemeteries and decorate graves with flowers, candles and balloons. It is also common to put food on graves and nightly parties, which usually end up with sleeping on the grave. An interesting custom is called “pangangaluluwa” which are organized groups of musicians and singers who wander from house to house, to stand up for dead.


As you can see, depending on the culture and religion there are many different customs associated with the worship of the dead. Some of them may surprise, others sound familiar. Do you agree with me? Whether the article was interesting for you? Traditions, which country do you like the most, and perhaps someone with you had the pleasure to participate in them? Your comments are very important to us.

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