The Art of Darkness

Death Takes a Holiday

May 20th, 2009 by Cobwebs

We all look forward to Halloween, but waiting a whole year to celebrate is kind of a drag. Fortunately, the whole calendar is haunted if you know where to look.

Festivals that honor the ancestors or propitiate unhappy ghosts are common in many cultures. If you’re looking for off-season excuses to get a little spooky, here are a few other dates that might interest you.

(Note: Holidays marked with an asterisk are based on a lunar calendar and move around from year to year. The dates given below are the next occurrence of each holiday.)

May 22, 24, and 26 – Lemuria
This Roman holiday took place on three non-successive days and was intended to frighten away evil spirits and placate the souls of those who had not been properly buried.

May 31* – Semik/Rusalii
This is a movable holiday which falls 50 days after Easter. It’s a week-long Slavic holiday when the dead return to Earth and evil forces are particularly active.

August 15 – Obon
An important Japanese Buddhist celebration, honoring the deceased.

September 2* – Ghost Festival
The Chinese “Festival of the Hungry Ghosts” has one of the best names for any festival, ever. On the first day of the seventh month the Gates of Hell open and spirits come back to spend a month in the world of the living.

September 18-20* – Pchum Ben
A Cambodian Buddhist celebration to commemorate deceased ancestors.

October 26 – Dziady
Another Slavic celebration, to honor the ancestors. Women sing funeral dirges and feasts are held at family gravesites. There are two of these a year, in spring and autumn. The dates apparently differ by locality, but the common autumn one appears to be St. Dimitrios’ Eve and the spring one the Tuesday after Easter.

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