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7 Most Horrifying Festivals To Honor the Dead Worldwide



Estimated reading time — 4 minutes

Have you ever wondered what the perception of death is within the religions and cultures of different countries? If so, you might be curious to know that while death is perceived as an inevitable aspect of life in some cultures, it also serves as a gateway to other lives in others. 

Many cultures have honored the departed with festivals and treated the dead with respect. Distinct nations have different customs for remembering the departed, from kite flying and parades to floating lanterns and wrestling. These celebrations might be dark, frightening, or even joyful. You’ve come to the right place if you want to discover everything there is to know about these seven festivals celebrated worldwide in honor of the dead. 

So, amidst the curiosity about death, get ready for new fascinating discoveries! 

7 Most Horrifying Festivals to Honor the Dead Worldwide

1. Samhain

On October 31 and November 1, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales all commemorate the ancient Gaelic and Celtic feast known as Samhain. With the onset of winter and the completion of the harvest season, it heralds the darkest half of the year. It is believed that at this time, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead is the thinnest. 

To please the spirits that could enter our world, devotees of Samhain leave food and beverages outside their houses. They used to make bonfires, dress up in terrifying clothes, and even sacrifice animals to fight evil and avoid falling victim to magical tricks.

In the past, followers tended to refrain from alcohol, non-vegetarian food, and joyous celebrations like weddings. However, despite such restrictions in the past, nowadays people can satisfy their worldly desires during Samhain. Surprisingly, they now gamble in the hope that the departed spirits will assist them in making wise use of the best online casino bonuses UK and winning the dream jackpot!

2. The Hungry Ghost Festival

On the 15th night of the 7th month, both Taoist and Buddhist civilizations enjoy their festivals of the dead (Ghost Month). It is said that when the gates of hell open, the souls of the dead wander the earth looking for comfort and food. These ghosts are evil spirits who were either never buried or never had a proper funeral. Their relatives had not left food at the tomb, so they have long, needle-like necks.

Families prepare a beautiful feast, burn joss paper and candles, and leave seats at the table empty so that the spirits will feel welcomed.  People also place lotus-shaped lanterns in the water or on rivers 14 days after the celebration to help the deceased find their way to the afterlife.

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3. The Day of the Dead

The origin of one of the most well-known festivals in the world, The Day of the Dead, can be traced back to a 2-month Aztec celebration in which offerings of food, drink, flowers, and ceramics were made to the Goddess Mictecacihuatl, or “Lady of the Dead,” to honor the dead and celebrate the harvest. The present festival combines the Aztec feast with the Catholic customs of the Spanish conquistadors.

Every year, from October 31 to November 2, homes are filled with color, and tables are decorated with pictures, flowers, beverages, and food. Because of their short existence, flowers are used to represent the brevity of life, while tissue paper, streamers, and bunting in vibrant colors are used to represent enthusiasm and joy.

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In addition to lighting candles to help the dead find their way home, families often leave a bath vanity with soap for them to use after a long journey. During this festival, street vendors are often seen carrying a coffin filled with fruit and flowers.

4. Obon

The Japanese holiday of Obon, also known as the Day of the Dead, honors departed loved ones by remembering their brief appearances on Earth. Depending on the calendar one uses, Obon can occur on a diverse set of days in July or August.

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Throughout the festival, public spaces and temples host performances of the historic folk dance known as Bon Odori. Common customs also include visiting relatives’ graves and hometowns and making special food offerings. 

The lighting of 5 huge bonfires on mountains outside of Kyoto during the Daimonji festival signifies the completion of Obon. The fire is intended to guide the spirits back to the underworld.

5. Pchum Ben

One of the most significant public holidays in Cambodia is Pchum Ben, a celebration that lasts for 15 days. During this time, which falls sometime between September and October, it is thought that the gates of hell are opened. Therefore, the living should aid in the purification of their ancestors’ souls and offer comfort or even liberty. 

For this reason, monks are given food offerings, but other individuals choose a more direct method of appeasing the dead by ritualistically tossing rice balls into cemeteries, temples, or fields.

On the festival’s last day, the spirits are accompanied on their journey back to the other side by little boats made from banana leaves that are filled with fruits, sweets, and money.

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6. Pitru Paksha

Traditionally celebrated in September or October following Ganesh Utsav and before Navratri, Pitru Paksha is an Indian festival honoring the memory of the dead. 3 generations of one’s ancestors’ souls are prayed for as they are thought to be in Pitriloka, a place between heaven and earth that is ruled by Yama, the god of death. 

The preparation of food as well as its ingredients is subject to stringent regulations. Clothing is provided as a gift or donation to poor families. 

7. Chuseok

In its essence, the Korean festival of Chuseok, which is celebrated in September or October, is a day of thanksgiving. Koreans typically travel to their ancestral hometowns for Chuseok and engage in rituals as a way of giving thanks to their departed loved ones for ensuring a plentiful harvest. 

The primary customs related to the holiday involve visiting and maintaining ancestor graves, as well as holding commemorations. Food plays a big role in celebrations, and it’s important to honor the spirits by arranging the treats in a certain way. Wrestling, a harvest rite conducted by women dressed traditionally, and other folk games are often played during celebrations.

Bottom Line

As you can see, distinct nations have different customs to honor the dead, and each of these festivals has unique characteristics that simultaneously fill people with a combination of strong emotions.

So, if you want to experience some of the most terrifying impressions, take advantage of a comprehensive collection of the world’s most horrifying festivals to honor the dead and take your time getting close to the unconscious. Therefore, if you have already picked the initial festival you want to try, then you’re about to have an unforgettable lifetime experience!

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