Halloween in America means cleverly carved jack-o’-lanterns on front steps (and on Instagram), costumes inspired by the latest pop culture craze, crews of children in elaborate costumes running from door to door with bags of goodies, and motion-sensing decorations that scream or cackle whenever someone unwittingly comes near. But it wasn’t always this way. Halloween most likely evolved from the ancient Celtic festival Samhain, in which people dressed in costumes and lit bonfires to keep the spirits at bay. Christians did a good job of appropriating pre-Christian holidays and rituals, and after Pope Gregory III declared November 1 All Saints’ Day in the eighth century, the evening before became known as All Hallows’ Eve. That grew into Halloween.
Despite all the talk of ghosts and spirits on October 31, most Americans would sooner spend the holiday dressing up and retelling ghost stories than remembering loved ones who have passed on. In many other parts of the world, however, festivals of the dead are centered around deceased family members, and families focus on extensive preparations for the return of the spirits of their ancestors.
In honor of Halloween, read on to learn about nine festivals around the world that honor the dead.
—Editor Syjil Ashraf and Hayden Field contributed to this roundup.