Halloween, delightful and spooky holiday celebrated on the night of October 31st, is not just a Western phenomenon. It has, over the years, crossed borders and mixed cultures, bringing with it a rich choice of musical sounds from around the world. In this article, we will take a journey around the world to discover how different cultures celebrate Halloween and how their ethnic differences has influenced the global Halloween music scene.
Celtic Roots and Irish Music Legacy
Halloween finds its origins in the Celtic festival of Samhain, where people believed the boundary between the living and the dead blurred, while performing a lot of ritualistic ceremonies. There traditional Irish music plays a significant role in the celebration. You might hear haunting tunes performed on fiddles, uilleann pipes, and tin whistles. The iconic song "Molly Malone" with mysterious and ghostly undertones is one of the best examples of early music associated with Halloween. The influence of Irish folk music can be heard in the Halloween-themed music of today, resonating far beyond the island where it started.
Mexico: Día de los Muertos
In Mexico, in contrast to the way we typically perceive Halloween today, it is not merely a spooky holiday but rather a significant and sacred cultural event. Despite its theme of death, Mexicans celebrate it with an air of joy and reverence because they believe it's a time to reunite with the departed. According to ancient Mexican beliefs, the souls of the deceased return from the afterlife once a year to visit their loved ones. Decorated streets, colorful disguises, great make-up, music, food, and dance are all integral to this celebration. This unique festival is became so popular that in 2003, UNESCO declared Dia de Los Muertos a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity.
One of the captivating elements that Halloween could learn from Día de los Muertos is the music that resonates with the spirit of the holiday with mariachi bands playing traditional tunes. Some popular songs that grace the festivities include "La Llorona," "Cumbia de Satanas," and "Calaverita". These melodies bring a special and lively element to the celebration, showing us the diverse cultural richness beyond the usual Halloween traditions.
Chinese Version of Halloween
There are several days and a whole entire month in China that are similar to Halloween, however the most well-known is the Hungry Ghost Festival. This event is held on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month, which is completely different from October 31st. It is one of several important days to deal with ghosts and worship ancestors in China. The Taoist name for the Hungry Ghost Festival is the Zhongyuan Festival (中元节), and Buddhists call it the Yulanpen Festival. In many ways, this festival is reminiscent of Halloween or the Night of the Dead in the West.
The music associated with the Hungry Ghost Festival varies from region to region and may incorporate elements of local traditions and beliefs. Different parts of the country might include opera and street performers, Buddhist chants and prayers and musical instruments, such as the guzheng (a zither), erhu (a two-stringed fiddle), and dizi (flute). More generally, there are no favorite genres and songs for the Chinese during Halloween. The focus is on creating a fun and enjoyable experience and the music played can vary depending on the preferences of the event organizers and attendees.
Western Vision of the Holiday
The celebration of Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England because of the Protestant belief system. However, in the second half of 19th century, this holiday made its way to another continent. Borrowing from European traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition. Just as in numerous other regions of the world, in Western culture Halloween-inspired music is essential to creating the celebratory atmosphere associated with the holiday. Just think of the many traditional songs that are played every year. First and foremost, Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbuster," but also the most famous soundtracks from the scariest movies such as "Psycho" and "The Exorcist," which are truly unmissable in any playlist.
As for favorite musical genres, it is filled with diversity. There are those who prefer the dark energy of heavy metal and hard rock music and those who prefer to stay more faithful to tradition by choosing pop, a genre that perfectly embodies the spirit of the holiday through such historic songs as "This is Halloween" or "Superstition" by the great Stevie Wonder.
In conclusion, Halloween music is a diverse phenomenon brought together by cultures from around the world. From its Celtic origins to the energetic mariachi bands of Mexico and the pop melodies of the US, these traditions and sounds have left an undeniable mark on the global Halloween scene. As we celebrate this holiday in the coming days, let's embrace the cultural influence that has made Halloween such a unique holiday.
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