Halloween abroad with international students
It’s October in America which means candy, pumpkins, and trick or treating. In America October means Halloween! But what does October mean to the rest of the world?
Parkland College has a vibrant and diverse community of international students from all over the globe. Raphaela Berdig comes from Köln, Germany. She is taking classes at Parkland for a semester as an exchange student. Germany and the U.S. have very close cultural ties so it wasn’t surprising to find out that Halloween is indeed celebrated in Germany, albeit in a smaller scale than in America.
“We don’t celebrate Halloween as big as they do it in the US. There are children that dress up and do trick or treating but it is only a handful and, if they ring the doorbells on houses, most of the people won’t open the door because they find it annoying,” Berdig said.As it turns out, in Germany what’s important is the day that comes after Halloween.“The day after Halloween is actually more important, when you think about the dead people. A lot of people go to church and then to the grave of the people who died,” Berdig explained.So you get to eat candy one day and then honor the dead the next day. Talk about mixed feelings.That’s it for Germany, next stop on our Halloween World Tour: Peru.Carlos Bocanegra comes from Chiclayo, a town in the northern regions of Peru, and is studying for a Physician Assistant masters program. “Peru has somewhat adopted Halloween from America,” Bocanegra explained. “Most people will go to Halloween parties dressed up in a costume, sometimes kids go trick or treating, but the authentic Peruvian thing to do is go to ‘Las Penas’, only adults go though. In ‘Las Penas’ you share with friends and try and remember those who have passed away…by partying.”Parkland student Dvong Nguyen, from Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam explained the unique way the Vietnamese people commemorate their dead.It seems like in Vietnam people don’t celebrate Halloween, as a matter of fact, their holiday commemorating the dead is not even in October, it’s in July. Bocanegra said that the Vietnamese Halloween equivalent is called something like “Sacrifice to Forsaken Spirits.”This event usually takes place on July 15 based on the lunar calendar. Families prepare offerings to put in front of their homes to offer to spirits still on Earth. The food includes rice, salt and chicken or other dishes.“People believe that when someone dies, their spirit will go to either heaven or hell, but there are also forsaken spirits that cannot go anywhere but stay in our world,” Bocanegra explained. “The day is for people to do charity for forsaken spirits. We burn incense and papers in form of money, houses, cars, or phones for the spirits”.That’s not all, in Vietnam they cut the middle man out of trick or treating.“Usually at the end of the ceremony, kids are allowed to run around and ‘rob’ candies put on the tables, sometimes even coins and cookies,” Bocanegra said.You won’t get rich though, they just leave petty change out.From Vietnam we go to Egypt, Africa. The ancient Egyptian civilization from thousands of years ago is famous for having a ubiquitous fascination with death. The great and wondrous Pyramids themselves were built as tombs for the Pharaohs, the emperors of Egypt. A lot can change in five thousand years, but it was still surprising to hear what Ruba Al-Arian from Cairo had to say.“Halloween in Egypt is only celebrated by the upper middle class and higher social classes. Most lower class people in Egypt don’t even know what that is, they might have heard the name in a movie or so but they don’t know what it is,” Al-Arian said.Ok, that’s not surprising. But what about another holiday to remember and cherish the deceased, does it exist? According to Al-Arian, it doesn’t. The last stop in our round the world trip is Australia.Parkland student Zachary Allevi, who comes from Adelaide on the South of Australia, is part of Parkland Men’s Soccer Team, explained that his home didn’t typically celebrate any type of Halloween.The children that do want to celebrate Halloween learned to do so from American television shows, and most homes won’t expect trick-or-treaters on Halloween night. “In fact, most Australians don’t understand the reason for celebrating Halloween, and its known as a American fad that is for kids to dress up and get candy.,” Allevi explained.While America may be the only place to celebrate the trick-or-treating fad, many other places still celebrate some form of the dark eve. Just be careful this Halloween no matter how you celebrate the night.