Halloween and the Day of the Dead in the Philippines

- October 9, 2014

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, however, 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 should be obvious I’m not talking about the Day of the Dead zombie movie.

I have no idea what the Day of the Dead is called 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.

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 where their loved ones are buried. 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. Everything is influenced by Spanish and Catholic tradition.

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 is both and she doesn’t celebrate them in the United States. Perhaps she will when we return to the Philippines.

Here in the United States, we don’t even bother to answer the door for the trick or treaters anymore. Our own children are grown and gone and we don’t buy candy for anything, not even for ourselves.

In the Philippines, I have absolutely nothing to do with Halloween. The only thing I’ve ever liked about Halloween, since I became 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” has to be 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.”


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