Halloween may be an American tradition, but its roots go way back. All the best superstitions of the Roman, Celtic, Catholic and European folk traditions, as well as good old American greed, have morphed into the modern-day celebration of Halloween. Second only to Christmas in spending, this superstition-rich amalgam of a holiday has become a celebration of our need to embrace our more base desires. See how countries around the world put their own spooky spin on Halloween, as well as honor spirits from beyond the grave.
Straw Bear Day, Germany
At the end of every winter, the men in southwestern Germany wrap themselves up in straw and parade around to drive away the cold.
The celebration takes place the day before Ash Wednesday, in 2016 it will be Feb. 9, but nightmares of men in straw bear suits go year round.
Araw ng mga Patay, Philippines
Each year, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, people in the Philippines meet in the cemetery to clean their relatives’ graves. Spending time cleaning the graves shows a love and respect for deceased loved ones — but the cleaning quickly turns into a party.
There’s an elaborate picnic-style feast in between the graves and many people stay in the cemetery overnight.
Pchum Ben, Cambodia
Pchum Ben is a 15-day celebration in the middle of October. For two weeks, the gates to hell are left open and ghosts are able to pass through to the side of the living. Pchum Ben offers ancestors who ended up in hell respite from eternal damnation.
The living relatives go to the pagoda and leave offerings for their dead relatives, who will in turn bless them for the upcoming year.
Yu Lan, China
The Hungry Ghost Festival lasts one month, and during this time restless spirits are said to wander around.
During this time, the Chinese are supposed to acquiesce to the spirits' wishes and leave out offerings. Elaborate Chinese operas are performed in the street for passersby — living or dead.
The three-day Obon festival is a Japanese-Buddhist ceremony honoring one's ancestors. Using paper lanterns, the Japanese send their ancestors' spirits back to their eternal resting place — until they come back the next year.
Famadihana takes place every winter in Madagascar.
Madagascans take out the bones of their dead ancestors, clean them off, wrap them in silk scarves, spray some perfume, dance with them around the tomb, and put them back in the ground. Each family puts on the elaborate ceremony once every seven years.
Nyepi Day, Bali
This day of silence marks Bali's new year, and on this day the entire island basically shuts down. But the day before, ogoh-ogoh (demonic looking figurines) are paraded about the town and burned, driving out all the bad spirits and negative energy.
La Calabiuza, El Salvador
On Nov. 1, citizens of Tonacatepeque, El Salvador celebrate a sort of anti-Halloween. Rooted in Spanish custom, a parade of papier mâché masks travels down to the town square for a party that could have inspired a Tim Burton movie.
Apr. 30 is Walpurgisnacht, when witches and warlocks come out to welcome spring.
Bonfires are built and, if real witches cannot be found, people dress up in tangled wigs and hooked noses to dance around the fire with a broomstick all night long.
Fet Gede, Haiti
This voodoo holiday is celebrated in Haiti on Nov. 1. People dance and drink rum while voodoo spirits descend upon the island, demanding gifts.
For those who do not offer something to the dead, results are said to be disastrous. There are stories of spirits crashing into the president's house, demanding money. (He of course paid.)