Halloween in the Philippines

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Children tell ghost stories around a relative's grave on Undas.

Halloween is not a festival native to the Philippines but is a recent adaptation from American culture, and is usually celebrated in urban areas during the last week of October by throwing Halloween costume parties and letting the children go trick-or-treating. Filipinos in rural areas, however, prefer to observe the more traditional All Saints Day or Undas on the first two days of November. Because of the similarities between the two festivals, Halloween and Undas have come to be linked, and even viewed by some as one celebration.

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Observances and traditions

The Filipino version of trick-or-treat is pangangaluluwa (literally: ghost visit or haunting), where young people dressed in white or draped in white sheets go from house to house begging for food or money either in the evening or in early morning. In earlier decades, they would also steal items from the yard such as eggs, chickens or even livestock - the only day in the year when it was tolerated. This practice, however, has now all but died out.

Filipinos traditionally serve kakanin or native delicacies during the festival, such as suman, puto, palitaw and guinataan. Members of the family return to their family homes to spend the festival with their families, both the living and the dead. Before November, they go to the cemeteries to clean the graves of their departed family members, weeding and sweeping the family plot and painting or whitewashing their tombstones. On either or both days of Undas, they then spend most of the day at the cemetery, bringing with them food, flowers and candles. Some also visit other cemeteries where relatives are buried.

The Halloween season is also regarded as the season for supernatural and ghost stories. During this week, Filipinos share stories of ghosts, hauntings and supernatural beings. Television shows also feature similar material during this time.

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