By Sophia Xiao
Here, the smell of pumpkins and irresistable chocolate fill the night. There, it’s the aroma of candy skulls and tortillas. Elsewhere, the smoke of burning incense swirls through the air. Every culture seems to have their own unique “Halloween,” yet each and every celebration commemorates the same people: the dead.
Observed primarily in Mexico and Latin American countries, Days of the Dead refers to the three-day celebration from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2.
“Nov. 1 is All Saints Day, which is usually for all the babies and children who have passed away,” explains Spanish teacher Edith Sousa.
Nov. 2, Day of the Dead, is for the rest of the deceased. People build altars, clean graves and decorate the cemetery with candles, papel piacdo and marigolds.
“Everyone gets together in the cemetery, but it’s not a day of sorrow and it’s not a day of being scared or scaring people,” clarifies Ms. Sousa. “For them it’s a day that their spirits come back to earth to spend time with them.”
In the Philippines, people also celebrate All Saints Day and All Souls Day because of the area’s strong Catholic roots. However, in much of the rest of Asia, cultures have their own holidays for honoring their ancestors.
“For example, in Qingming Festival, a lot of our family comes together to the place where our ancestors are buried. We clean their graves and give offerings to them such as fruit, candy, and burn paper offerings for them… so that they can have these things in the afterlife,” recounts sophomore Emily Liu about different Chinese holidays.
American Halloween still vaguely represents the original idea of appreciation for the afterlife, but its core essence, unlike most other countries, is no longer about the dead.
“But it’s commercial and people like it. It’s fun, and so for adults it’s a time to party; for kids it’s a time to get candy,” laughs social science teacher Joshua Berry.
“I think it’s cool that Halloween is spreading out to all these different cultures, and that’s something that can bring all of us together in a way,” agrees sophomore Karely Ruvalcaba.