Germany and Austria are next-door neighbors. So it is not surprising that their customs are a bit similar. Like the Germans, many Austrians are Catholic, so they also celebrate All Saints' Day, All Souls' Day and All Souls' Week. All Saints' Day is the day dedicated to remembering the saints who have been canonized by the Catholic Church and is celebrated in many countries. Nov. 1 was chosen as the date by Pope Boniface in 609 probably to co-opt a pagan holiday called the Feast of the Lamures, which was when pagans tried to appease restless spirits [source: Catholic Online]. All Souls' Day is held on Nov. 2 and honors all those who have departed this earth. Many people blur the distinction between the two holidays, and may for instance, visit a family gravesite on Nov. 1.
Austrians believe, as do their German neighbors, that this is the sole time of year that dead souls can return to Earth and visit their old stomping grounds. But rather than worrying that they'll accidentally stab or slit these spirits, Austrians are concerned with making them feel welcome. So they keep their lights on at night, even after they have retired for the evening, so the souls don't have to fumble about in the dark. And since the journey from the netherworld to Earth is likely a tiring one, they also set out some bread and water for these famished and thirsty beings.
Author's Note: Beyond Halloween: 8 Holidays Spirits Love
I remember trick-or-treating for UNICEF as a child in the 1960s, and I was recently lamenting to my husband that this tradition had apparently died. None of our kids did it when they were little, nor do any children in our neighborhood currently show up on Halloween toting UNICEF boxes. But apparently it's still being done in certain areas of the country. Hopefully the movement will spread once again to my locale in America's heartland.
More Great Links
- Altman, Alex. "Guy Fawkes Day." Time. Nov. 5, 2008. (Oct. 3, 2015) http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1856603,00.html
- Cambridge, James. "10 Unusual Halloween Traditions From Around The World." BuzzFeed. Oct. 29, 2013. (Sept. 29, 2015) http://www.buzzfeed.com/jamescambridge/10-unusual-halloween-traditions-from-around-the-wo-arau#.nb4pxAn4d
- Caribbean360. "Haiti's Day of the Dead blends voodoo with Christianity." Nov. 6, 2013 (Oct. 12, 2015).http://www.caribbean360.com/news/haiti_news/haitis-day-of-the-dead-blends-voodoo-with-christianity#ixzz3o6ilMhna
- DeNinno, Nadine. "What Is 'Dia De Los Muertos'? Date, History And Everything To Know About 'Day Of The Dead' 2013." International Business Times. Oct. 30, 2013. (Oct. 3, 2015) http://www.ibtimes.com/what-dia-de-los-muertos-date-history-everything-know-about-day-dead-2013-photos-1448084
- Discover Hong Kong. "The Hungry Ghost Festival." (Oct. 3, 2015) http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/see-do/events-festivals/chinese-festivals/the-hungry-ghost-festival.jsp
- Greenblatt, Alan. "Halloween Is More Funny Than Scary In St. Louis." NPR. Oct. 31, 2011. (Sept. 30, 2015) http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2011/10/31/141861829/halloween-is-more-funny-than-scary-in-st-louis
- Haggerty, Bridget. "An Irish Hallowe'en - Part 2." Irish Culture and Customs. (Oct. 3, 2015) http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/ACalend/Halloween2.html
- Harness, Jill. "12 Weird Halloween Traditions From Around The World." Oddee. Oct. 30, 2014. (Sept. 30, 2015) http://www.oddee.com/item_99127.aspx
- History. "History of Halloween." (Oct. 3, 2015) http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween
- Ireland-Information. "Irish Halloween Traditions." (Oct. 3, 2015) http://www.ireland-information.com/articles/irishhalloweentraditions.htm
- Japan Guide. "Obon." Aug. 25, 2015. (Oct. 3, 2015) http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2286.html
- Laks, Zachary. "10 Best Halloween Celebrations in the U.S." Fodor's. Oct. 15, 2014. (Sept. 29, 2015) http://www.fodors.com/news/photos/10-best-halloween-celebrations-in-the-us#!1-intro
- Pumpkin Patches and More. "Halloween Traditions and Celebrations Around the World." http://www.pumpkinpatchesandmore.org/halloweenglobal.php
- Reader's Digest. "Halloween Around the World: Customs and Traditions." (Oct. 3, 2015) http://www.rd.com/culture/halloween-around-the-world/
- Sawyer, Ty. "Halloween Around the World." Travel Channel. (Oct. 3, 2015) http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/haunted/articles/halloween-around-the-world
- The Week. "Halloween: how strange tales led to spooky traditions." (Sept. 29, 2015) http://www.theweek.co.uk/arts-life/55594/halloween-how-strange-tales-led-to-spooky-traditions
- UNICEF. "History of the Campaign." (Oct. 3, 2015) http://www.unicefusa.org/trick-or-treat/about/history
- Whipps, Heather. "Devil's Night: The History of Pre-Halloween Pranks." Live Science. Oct. 29, 2008. (Oct. 3, 2015) http://www.livescience.com/5149-devil-night-history-pre-halloween-pranks.html
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