Day of the Dead celebrations around the world

Written by eric oropeza
Day of the Dead celebrations around the world
Skulls made from sugar form part of the celebrations in Mexico (Tom Owen Edmunds/Stone/Getty Images)

The country most famously associated with Day of the Dead celebrations is Mexico. It is a celebration that has great symbolism in the Central American country. However, there are also other places across the world that host similar celebrations to remember their dead. Most of the events are held in October and November.

Japan

Day of the Dead celebrations around the world
(Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

It is well known that traditions and religions are practiced differently in Asia than in the western world. This is no different with the Day of the Dead in Japan. This festival is known as “Obon,” or Day of the lanterns, and it is celebrated in the month of August. As the name suggests, those who participate light lanterns. They do this to call their dead and place their spirits on the right path to the world of the living. Once this ritual is completed, the lanterns are floated down rivers guiding the spirits back to the spirit world.

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Cambodia

Day of the Dead celebrations around the world
(Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images)

This festival takes place during 14 days in September and it is known as “Phum Ben.” It involves preparing delicious food throughout this period and on the 15th day it is taken to a local pagoda. The food is then offered to the monks and then ritually to the dead. It is one of the most luxurious celebrations in the county and Cambodians put on their best clothes for the occasion. However, Buddhists maintain their traditional dress.

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The United States and Britain

Day of the Dead celebrations around the world
(Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Although it is probably not thought of a celebration of the dead in both countries, Halloween can actually be seen as part of the wider world tradition. Its roots lie in Irish culture and it is celebrated on 31 October every year. Children on both sides of the Atlantic enjoy dressing up in scary costumes and taking to the streets to go trick-or-treating.

Related: The UK's Halloween and Bonfire Night festivals

Belarus

Day of the Dead celebrations around the world
(Viktor Drachev/AFP/Getty Images)

The people of this country celebrate the Day of the Dead by taking to the streets in processions held for their dead. Religious officials also participate in these ceremonies which end in local cemeteries. Speeches are given that are dedicated to the deceased. The festival is known as “Dzyady” and it does not involve any specific offerings or other rituals.

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Spain and France

Day of the Dead celebrations around the world
(Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images)

Many people in Spain and France celebrate their dead by meeting on main streets and in squares before heading to the graves of their loved ones with flowers. In France, this tradition is known as "La Toussaint" and it has become a popular tourist attraction. Indeed, tourists even take part in the events by visiting the graves of famous people who have died in both countries. Many visit the grave of rock star Jim Morrison in Paris.

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India

Day of the Dead celebrations around the world
(Images Bazaar/Getty Images)

India is a country where tradition is deeply rooted in its population. The Day of the Dead usually involves all the gods and saints of Indian religions. Devotees pray for the eternal rest of their deceased loved ones. On 1 November, thousands of people also head to tombs and they proceed to fill them with hundreds of candles.

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The Philippines

Day of the Dead celebrations around the world
(Jay Directo/AFP/Getty Images)

Day of the Dead celebrations in this country are similar to those held in Mexico, as the people do not take them wholly seriously and try to have fun. Coffins are placed across some areas of the major cities and people jump out to try and scare passers-by. Overall, the celebrations are lighter and less gloomy when compared to some other countries.

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Guatemala

Day of the Dead celebrations around the world
(AFP/Getty Images)

The celebrations in Guatemala are similar to those in other Latin American countries. Guatemalans create altars with the characteristic elements of The Day of the Dead and also adorn doorways with the flower of the dead. One hallmark of the event in this country is the eating of meats and vegetables on the first two days in November. Another is the flying of kites, some of which can measure up to 20 metres in diameter, on 1 November. There are two theories surrounding the origins of this tradition. One states that it began with the belief that a connection could be created in the air between the living and the dead. The other states that the colours on the kites represent the types of corn given as tributes in worship of the earth.

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Ecuador

Day of the Dead celebrations around the world
(AFP/Getty Images)

For Ecuadorians, the Day of the Dead is no reason for sadness. It is true that in some places in the country altars are built, but for most the celebration is a time to enjoy being with friends and family. Great banquets are prepared in honour of the dead. At this point in the celebrations, stories and memories of dead loved ones are told. One of the most characteristic elements of the celebrations in Ecuador is the preparation of “guagua de pan”, bread shaped into the form of a baby. It is eaten with “colada morada,” a drink made from black corn and fruit.

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