RT Cunningham


Halloween and the Day of the Dead in the Philippines

Halloween Halloween is a holiday I remember fondly as a child growing up in Arizona. Not so much after that. Sure, I did the “trick or treat” thing, but that was about it. My own children did the same thing, but it was way more toned down by then.

In the Philippines, most families celebrate it in a completely different way. It’s strange, though, because I see Halloween masks and costumes being sold in certain stores. I can only assume they’re for costume parties. Although I’ve never seen anyone going door-to-door with costumes, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Halloween and the Day of the Dead

When I speak of Halloween, everyone knows what I’m talking about. Even Filipinos in the Philippines. Americans, however, don’t have a clue about the “Day of the Dead” if they’re not part of any ethnic groups influenced by the Spanish in history. Even so, it’s obvious I’m not talking about the “Day of the Dead” zombie movie.

I have no idea what people call the Day of the Dead anywhere else because I’ve never been involved with it anywhere else. It’s only because I married into the Filipino mindset that I know about it in the Philippines. In the Philippines, it’s called “Araw ng mga Patay”. You can read more about it at Wikipedia’s “Day of the Dead” page.

Halloween is only One of the Three Days of Celebration

If any Filipinos celebrate Halloween itself, then they celebrate a total of three days. October 31 is “All Hallow’s Eve” or Halloween, November 1 is “All Saints’ Day” and November 2 is “All Souls’ Day”. Don’t ask just any Filipino about it, though. They often confuse November 1 and November 2. The Day of the Dead actually refers to both days as a single holiday.

One thing that isn’t confused is how they celebrate. Families spend their nights at the cemeteries, close to their buried loved ones. It’s like an all-night party, with food and whatever else you can possibly think of. I don’t understand why they do it and I’m not sure they understand either. THe Spanish and Catholic traditions influence everything.

Me, Halloween, and those other Days

I’m not Catholic and I’m not Filipino. I don’t celebrate any of those three days. My wife, Josie, is both and she doesn’t celebrate them when she’s in the United States. She does in the Philippines, but not to the extremes I’ve heard about. She and her relatives will only spend a few hours at the cemetery, during the daylight.

I have absolutely nothing to do with Halloween in the Philippines. The only thing I’ve ever liked about Halloween, since becoming an adult, is looking at the outlandish costumes people wear. The only place I get to see costumes in the Philippines is in the stores.

As a side note, “customer” is one of the most misspelled English words in the Philippines. I see it spelled as “costumer” (with the vowels transposed) far more often than it spelled correctly. The first time I saw it on an official-looking sign, I thought to myself “I wonder if they realize a costumer would be someone who makes costumes.”

Originally published in October of 2014. Updated for readability.

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By RT Cunningham
October 25, 2017
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