How do Filipinos Celebrate the Halloween?
Celebrating Halloween, the Filipino-style
Halloween here in the Philippines is not like the Halloween in the Western countries. Although it’s a big holiday (comparable to Christmas here), we celebrate it in a different manner. Halloween in the Philippines lasts from the eve of October 31 (or even before this day) to November 2. Due to our strong Catholic background, Nov. 1 and Nov. 2 are spent remembering our dead loved ones and these dates will usually find most of us in one place only: the cemetery or the memorial park.
This is a hub on how the Filipinos celebrate their Halloween. No, we don’t celebrate it with pumpkins or trick-or-treats (although this Western tradition is sometimes practiced in some families / subdivisions here). We celebrate it through candles, flowers, prayers and a visit to the cemetery.
What Happens During the Halloween
The following are the chain of events during the Halloween celebration:
A week before October 31: This is the start of the clean-up of cemeteries and the graves of the loved ones. The graves get fresh paint, grasses are cut, floors are swept and everything is made ready for the visits on Nov. 1 or 2.
A few days before November 1: People from the capital and other places in the Philippines start going back to their hometowns (or what we call the provinces) to visit their dead loved ones. During these days, the airplanes / airports are packed, so are the ships and the buses. The height of this “travel season” is on October 31, where employees take the whole day off to catch the last bus (or ship or plane) for their way home.
The eve of October 31: The people are already busily preparing for the next day. All the items (such as candles, flowers and snacks) that will be brought to the cemetery the following day are already purchased and packed by this time.
November 1: Also called All Saints’ Day. It may be for the saints but here, it is definitely a day to remember the souls. The cemeteries and the memorial parks are overflowing with people during this day, especially in the afternoon or even the evening. Traffic going in and out of cemeteries and on the nearby streets is pretty tight. Policemen and other law enforcement agencies are on heightened alert during this time to ensure that the activities during this day are peaceful and are done in an orderly fashion.
November 2: This is actually the All Souls’ Day. For some people who do not want to brave the crowds on Nov. 1, they opt instead to go to the cemeteries on Nov. 2 (less noisy and more somber this way). But for a lot of people, their trips back to their workplace or to the cities start on this day.
Okay, you might think we have a very boring Halloween here. I mean, cemeteries, graves, prayers, etc. make it look like a serious affair. Not so. Spending Halloween in the cemeteries is a fun event. It’s like a mini-reunion for families and friends alike, a chance to have fellowship with those people that we see only once a year (only on Nov. 1 of each year). Tents, shelters, chairs and tables are set up in front of the grave sites to provide a place where the family and their visitors can stay and talk. Radios, mp3s, CD players, musical instruments, karaoke and the like are present to provide music, singing and entertainment. Board games, playing cards, play stations are also present for the young ones (and the young at heart). Best of all, food and drinks are overflowing during this time, with families bringing in baskets of food and drinks to share with other members of their families and their visitors.
If you run out of food, drinks, candles and even flowers, vendors are all around the cemetery to provide for your needs. It saves the family members the hassle of bringing these things plus it provides extra income for these vendors.
There you have it. Halloween Filipino – style. Different, yes, but equally as interesting as the Halloween celebration in other parts of the world.