Viking Call

Upper Merion High's Student Newspaper


Haunted Holidays

The gentle unease of spooky aesthetics rises as Halloween approaches. The precise
beginnings of this holiday are veiled in a layer of mystery, though historians generally
believe that it began as a combination of Catholic traditions honoring the deceased and
Celtic harvest celebrations. Halloween’s better-documented introduction to the United
States coincides with the growing cultural prevalence of Spiritualism–Victorians even
attempted to speak with the dead at séances. But the desire to connect with the unearthly
and become the thing that would otherwise scare us is intrinsic to humanity, resulting in a
multitude of festive parades and even solemn ceremonies with Halloween-like traditions
across the world.
Originating over 7,000 miles away, the Hungry Ghost Festival is one where offerings
and prayers are made to one’s ancestors; their spirits rise to the human realm in the
seventh month of the Lunar calendar to initiate the festivities. Celebrated by East and
Southeast Asian countries, their practice of venerating the wandering ghosts of strangers,
in addition to one’s departed ancestors, resembles Halloween’s ability to suspend social
boundaries, allowing us to knock on strangers’ doors and receive a “Happy Halloween!” and
a pack of Skittles in return.
Like the sound of the first lines of Danny Elfman’s score for The Nightmare Before
Christmas, the eerie musical accompaniment of the Awuru Odo Festival in Nigeria ignites a
feeling of shivery glee. Similarly to the Hungry Ghost Festival, this event in Igbo culture
signifies the return of the dead to traverse the mortal realm. People donning costumes and
masks imitate spirits, or the Odo, in respect and gratitude. Preparations are elaborate as
people prepare shrines and decorate the masks that the Odo will wear. At the expense of
sounding like a Nicole Kidman ad for AMC, this dedication to craft expresses the beauty of
these celebrations of the ghoulish and ghastly.
During Gai Jatra, Nepal’s homage to the god of death and commemoration of
deceased loved ones, lively costumed street processions move through cities with cows
guiding wandering souls along the way. Decorative creations and intricate costumes
demonstrate humanity’s impulse to share our imaginations and creativity with one another.
Additionally, the enjoyment of frightening media like horror movies and true crime shows

is universal, seen in the prevalence of ghost stories detailing the misfortunes of vengeful
souls, befitting the holiday’s solemn theme.
As Halloween hardly has a monopoly over spooky customs, countries and cultures
across the globe possess various haunting holidays honoring the dead. Though they can be
scary and unearthly, they act as whimsical reminders of what life is about. Scariness
provides something unique to our imaginative lives, and the thrillingly unfamiliar and
seemingly peculiar traditions of other cultures perpetuate the delightful, comforting, and
cozy unease of ghosts and spirits.


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