The Filipino Halloween traditions is a blend of indigenous beliefs, Christian practices, and modern customs.
Halloween, more known as “Undas”, is a major holiday in the Philippines. While the event spans two days (November 1 and 2), government offices and some private establishments declare the afternoon of October 31 as holiday to give people time to prepare for the said celebration.
A time when Filipinos remember and honor their departed loved ones, Filipino Halloween is marked by various customs and traditions that reflect the beliefs and culture of the country.
Below are the most popular Filipino Halloween traditions.
Going Home to the Province
Filipinos look forward to Undas because they have the opportunity to travel back to their home provinces due to work holidays. Bus terminals, seaports, and airports are typically crowded around this time so make sure to pack a lot of patience in addition to drinking water and food that can sustain you should there be delays.
Honoring the Saints
On November 1, many Filipinos celebrate All Saints Day, a Catholic tradition dedicated to honoring the saints. Devotees are encouraged to attend mass and join various activities organized by the church such as procession with the images of saints.
Visiting the Cemetery
One of the most significant Filipino Halloween traditions is visiting the cemetery, usually from October 31st to November 2nd. Families gather at the gravesites of their deceased relatives, lighting candles, flowers, and offering food. They clean, repaint, and decorate the tombs, creating an atmosphere that blends solemnity and festivity.
Food Preparation and Offerings
Food has always been part of every Filipino celebration, including Undas. Families prepare food to be eaten by family members and friends at home or to be taken to the cemetery where they can have a picnic. It is also common for the family members to place food beside the picture of the deceased persons or bring food offerings to the gravesites. These offerings usually consist of the deceased’s favorite dishes, such as traditional Filipino delicacies made from sticky rice (glutinous rice).
Preparing kakanin (rice cakes) during Undas stems from the time when sticky rice used to be harvested in October thus its abundance enables people to prepare a feast of rice cakes. The tradition was carried over until now.
Trick or treat wasn’t a big deal in the Philippines back then. Instead, people practice “pangangaluluwa”, the term derived from the root word “kaluluwa” which is a local term for soul. During “pangangaluluwa”, people draped in white cloth (symbolizing souls), go from house to house and sing in exchange for money or rice cakes. Unfortunately, this has become a dying tradition and is being practiced in few communities only.
Horror Movies, TV Shows, and Documentaries
For many decades, leading TV networks in the country have been playing horror movies and tv shows all day long during Halloween. Documentaries and magazine programs featuring ghost sightings, mysterious occurrences, and other scary topics are being played as well.
Lighting of Candles Outside the Door
Lighting of candles outside the door on the evening of November 1 and 2 is said to help the deceased find their way back home to their loved ones.
Undas, the Filipino Halloween celebration, is a unique blend of tradition, superstition, and spirituality. It serves as a time for Filipino families to come together, remember their departed loved ones, and pay their respects. The customs and practices associated with Undas provide a fascinating glimpse into the culture and beliefs of the Philippines, making it a truly special and culturally rich holiday.
READ MORE: Filipino Culture & Heritage