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You've Heard About Halloween, But How Does Asia Honor the Dead?




Halloween may now be seen as a chance to dress up and indulge in candy and treats, but it began as a display of reverence to the fallen souls of society. Honor for the dead is not just a Western tradition — countries all over the world have carved great traditions from the simple act of remembering those they have lost.

Chuseok in Korea is a celebration of a good autumn harvest. Families go to the hometowns of their ancestors and offer new harvest foods to their loved ones.

The Qingming festival in China, also known as Ancestors Day, honors the departed with offerings of food at ancestral grave sites.

The Obon festival in Japan lasts three days and honors the spirits of the ancestors through the illumination of countless lanterns all over the country. People return to ancestral places and clean the graves of their ancestors as they are believed to re-visit the household altars.

In India, Pitru Paksha is a 16-day lunar festival paying homage to the dead, usually through offerings of food. It is particularly important for the eldest son to perform the principal rituals, as sons traditionally carry the weight of the family name.

In Vietnam, the Mid-Autumn Moon festival, or Tet Trung Thu, is an opportunity for parents who have been preoccupied with the autumn harvest to spend time with their children. It is a tradition of bringing generations of families together.

Halloween doesn't just belong to the West. In places like Hong Kong and Malaysia, parades are staged to showcase the year's best costumes. And for many expats, Halloween in the East is a spooky yet comforting reminder of home.

How do you honor the dead in your country? Send photos to [email protected].

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