Halloween is a huge thing in the US, but it is also in other parts of the world, and some traditions are just awesome and more sustainable! So why not get some inspiration here?
At its origins, Halloween is a celebration of the dead, happening on the evening of the 31st October. Did you know that the original name of this celebration means “all saints eve” (all hallow meaning all saints in Scottish Gaelic). This Celtic event is prevalent today around the world and especially in the Unites States, Canada, Great Britain and Ireland. However, similar festivities exist in the 4 corners of the world, as celebrating the dead is not a uniquely Celtic tradition; the Chinese, Mexicans and other people have their own “day of the dead” as well.
Nowadays though we don’t honor the dead, but rejoice in mass consumption! With the industrialization of this event, we are now witnessing a truly horror show. Millions of costumes are made in China, candy made out of industrial gelatin (coming from animal bones) is being distributed to children, pumpkins are emptied and then disposed of, and tons of chemical products are contained in cheap makeup sold for the occasion – a monstrosity for the environment. Below you will find 5 countries whose examples we could get inspired from to celebrate the dead in an authentic and “green” manner and have a joyful, memorable yet cozy Halloween party!
Mexico: an artsy disguise
Mexicans adore the Day of the Dead. And el Dia de los Muertos is among the most important ones in the year! Besides the artistic exhibitions taking place in the streets and the parades of traditional bread for the dead, Mexican people also make offerings honoring nature. The offerings placed on altars represent the 4 elements of nature. The earth is represented by the fruit that feeds the souls; the wind is represented by shredded or soft tissue paper, since due to its lightweight nature it goes with the breeze; the water is placed in a recipient for the visiting souls that calm their thirst after having crossed a long road to get to the altar; and finally the fire that is represented by candles, one for each soul that we remember and one for each forgotten.
You want a Mexican touch to your Halloween? Try the “Calaverita” mask made out of paper plate! It’s original and affordable. Or if you prefer to paint your face, opt for organic products. Try Luna Star Naturals, it’s a 100% natural brand; much better for the skin of your kids than the Chinese products made out of unidentifiable elements. And here some tutorials for a homemade calavera makeup.
China: A forest to honor the dead and celebrate life
In China, the day of the dead or Qingmingjie, is an occasion for the family to get together. A big meal is organized, offerings are placed on behalf of the ones who are gone and people take advantage of this moment to appreciate their close ones. The Day of the Dead takes place in China in April, when nature turns green again and life resumes. It’s an occasion for Chinese people to plant a tree to express this renaissance and honor the lives of the missing. Not so long ago, the day of the dead was even called the reforestation celebration. Afterwards during the night “sacred” lanterns are let go off – one for each soul. These lanterns are usually made out of rice paper and are biodegradable.
USA: A Jack-O-lantern to compost
The United States, just like their British or Irish acolytes, adore Halloween. It’s the occasion to disguise oneself in scary costumes and to place Jack-o-lanterns a bit everywhere. There are plenty of options though to not waste your pumpkins. You can, for example, use the seeds by grilling them afterwards and eating them. You can use pumpkins as compost material or as pots for plants or distribute the remains of the pumpkins in nature – animals like deer, birds and other rodents are fond of them. Outfits can be made at home as well. Why purchase a costume “made in China” out of plastic when you can recycle older clothes as perfectly fine Halloween outfits?
Scotland: Better to play by the rules!
In Scotland, the Halloween celebration has its own tradition. The Scots are used to lighting up huge joyful bonfires and they take the flames to light up the torches that they spread around the house in order to be protected in the year to come. Children dress up, put on black makeup and put on old clothing to repel evil spirits. In order to get the sweets, kids have to sing a song or recite a poem or engage in some other type of “trick” that they present at their neighbor’s doorstep.
Pork meat used to be prohibited from consumption during Halloween thanks to the Witch Craft Act. It was only 60 years ago that this tradition was abolished. But this doesn’t prevent certain Scots to respect it still; it’s an example to follow. Games are also very popular, like the game involving an apple to be caught in the water only with one’s mouth or with the scone suspended on an eatable rope – of course no hands allowed!
Japan : when the light goes on…
Japanese people celebrate their dead by respecting a Buddhist tradition. They organize a big celebration to comfort their lost ones and they light up lanterns everywhere to guide their path. Actually every Japanese house has a spot for their ancestors. This celebration is renowned for its traditional dances and for the lanterns that the Japanese also like to place on water. These 100% biodegradable lanterns , made out of rice paper or plain paper with a small candle in the middle are supposed to help every soul find its way back to its place of origin.
Halloween, the Day of the Dead, Obon, All Saints – no matters how we call this celebration. The most important thing is the feeling that it is the third most famous event in a lot of countries that can inspire other cultures to innovate and make their own Halloween a bit…greener!
Translation & Copy Editing by Liana Marinoiu
Cet article est disponible en Français (French)
October 18, 2016
This is a great post !! I had no idea about this stuff! Thanks for sharing ! Love your blog !
October 18, 2016
Thank you for your kind words Ada! We are very glad that we managed to bring something new on the table!
January 4, 2017
I definitely want to go down to Mexico during “Day of the Dead” festivities. It’s almost as colourful and popular as Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans.
January 5, 2017
Thanks for your comment Ray! We have been to Oaxaca for El dia de Los Muertos this year and it was just awesome. The whole country turns into a big party. We really loved it ! You should definitely go next year! We will share an article about it very soon.