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  • Writer's pictureAtlas

Notes from the Festivals of the Dead

Dear FCI,

Halloween is just around the corner and frankly I can’t hide my excitement! Scary movies, trick-or-treating and candy, candy, CANDY! However, in my travels I’ve noticed that while some countries do celebrate Halloween similar to us, other don’t—in fact, in some countries, the practice of Halloween-like rituals are banned!

The other festivities that occur throughout the world around Halloween have their own origins and traditions as well as cultural celebrations that encompass a similar timeframe as the American holiday. One thing I’ve noticed about these other festivities is they have one thing in common: they are meant to honor those who have passed away.

I’ve been to the origin of Halloween and have experienced several “dead” festivals. I’ve gathered my notes from some of these festivities and wanted to share them with you all. (Please don't mind my notes, they received some wear and tear over the years).

Samhain, the origin of Halloween

Samhain is an ancient Celtic fire festical

Samhain was one of the four quarterly fire festivals practiced by the Ancient Celts, taking place between the fall equinox and the winter solstice.

The Samhain Fire Parade held every year in Edinburgh

The Samhain Fire Parade is held every year in Edinburgh. There's fire dancing, acrobats, and traditional Celtic culture.


Dia de los Muertos, celebrated in Mexico

Faces are often painted to resemble skulls for Dia de los Muertos

People often paint their faces to resemble skulls. Flowers, especially marigolds, are also an important element to the festival.

Bright colors are utilized throughout the festivities, as the event isn't supposed to be melancholy, but bright and lively.

Fed Gede, a festival of the dead celebrated in Haiti
Participants dressed in Fed Gede colors for the annual festival

Purple, black, and white are the main colors used in the festival as they are the colors of Bawon Samdi, or Papa Gede. Also known as the "first man," Papa Gede presides over the festivities and it is said that he sees over both worlds; the human world and the underworld.

Fed Gede participants often fill cemeteries to spend time with deceased relatives.

The Gede love hot peppers, and sometimes participants will pour pepper-infused alcohol over themselves.

Pangangaluluwa, a Pilipino festival to pay respect to deceased loved ones.
Pangangaluluwa participants often end the evening in cemeteries, surrounding their deceased loved ones.

It is said that Pangangaluluwa bonds people through pakikisama, which is an untranslatable Tagalog term for the importance of being neighborly and kind to others.

Several different types of rice cakes and candies are given out during Pangangaluluwa.

Pangangaluluwa is rarely practiced today, however in regions where it is practiced, the rituals vary, as well as the type of treat that is handed out.

For Americans, Halloween primarily consists of dressing up in scary costumes, eating lots of candy, and attending haunted attractions. Pumpkin carving, Halloween parades and parties, and a whole month of spooky movies and decorations. This, we know, but isn’t it fascinating to see how other countries celebrate this time of the year? How other people celebrate their deceased loved ones in such festive and sweet ways.

However you decide to spend these few days, remember this. This is the only time of year where the dead walk among us. Whether we disguise ourselves as monsters and ghouls and hide behind our masks or light incense and candles to guide the dead back to their earthly homes, the dead never really leave us—they may not be walking among us every other day, but they are always here.

Anyhow, Happy Halloween all, or Happy “honoring our deceased loved ones” Festival, for whichever holiday you may celebrate.


Atlas in his Halloween costume.

What are you doing for Halloween? Or do you celebrate a different holiday this time of year?

My favorite parts about Halloween are the scary movies ALL MONTH LONG, the massive amounts of candy, and of course trick-or-treating! I love seeing everyone out dressed in their costumes, sharing scares and fall feelings.

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