Philippine "Halloween" Customs
by Angel V. Campoy
“Halloween” in the Philippines is celebrated on the evening of All Souls’ Day (November 1) instead of on the evening of October 31 as in the United States. In most American communities Halloween parties are held mostly for fun and entertainment, but in the Philippines Halloween is observed in remembrance of the souls of the dead, and prayers, feasting, and merry-making are combined.
In the Eastern Visayas, more particularly in Negros Oriental, certain peculiar Halloween customs and beliefs are traditionally observed. One custom is the burning of candles on the family altar from six o’clock in the evening just before the Angelus rings, until past eighth o’clock, when the church bells toll that hour. This is done to welcome the souls of the dead who, as many believe, are free to roam about on Halloween night. A glance at the altar and the number of candles lighted there tells one the number of persons who have died in the family.
Another tradition is the prayer for the departed souls. The Halloween prayer is in reality the last of nine nights of prayer, which begin eight days before Halloween. It is believed by many Catholics that these prayers will help save the souls of their departed loved ones or release them from Purgatory.
The most interesting and touching custom of all is the way the Halloween feast for the dead is celebrated. The feast is supposedly served to the souls of the departed who are believed to be able to visit their former homes on that night, although it is actually the living who enjoy the feast.
A table is placed under the house or just below the porch, as is most convenient. The table is brightly lighted with candles and upon it are set dishes that contain the various foods and delicacies that the departed souls liked best when they were alive. Grandfather’s huge pipe may lie upon the table before the chair he used to sit in, and on the other side there may be some betel-nut and lime for a dead uncle to chew after his meal. If the dead loved tuba, you may find a pitcher full of this native brew on the table. Fruit and candy may be there for the little boy or girl who has untimely passed away.
When everything is ready, the head of the family calls out the names of the dead and invites them to eat and feel at home. He then goes up into the house, and the prayers begin. Everyone in the house including the servants must join in. No one must go downstairs or look down through the floor at the table laden with food below. It is believed that while the family prays, the departed souls get their fill of the food set out for them and the souls can not bear to see anyone watching them as they eat. When the prayer is over, the family and friends who may have taken part have their turn at the same table and everyone enjoys a hearty supper. Story-telling and merry-making follow until late in the night. No matter how poor the family may be, there is always a good supper this night for it comes during that season of the year when root crops like tugue, cassava, and camotes, and also fruit are abundant.
Are you a single or a widower or widow and would you lie to get a glimpse of your future mate? Then Halloween night is the time for you. There is a belief that you can see your future husband or wife on Halloween if you try hard enough. Here’s all you have to do: Get a ripe orange and a bunch of orange blossoms ready on your dressing table before you go to bed on Halloween night. Also have a knife ready to peel the orange. Before you go to bed say a prayer for the soul of a departed friend or your late spouse. At exactly twelve o’clock, get up quietly and light the lamp on your dressing table. Do not make any noise so as not to awaken anyone. Now peel the orange. When this is done, leave the house as quietly as you can, taking the peeled orange, and, without turning around, walk straight to the nearest street crossing and there cut the orange in two. Leave one half of the orange at the crossing and go back home carrying the other half. You must not look back or make any noise in doing this or the spell will be broken. As soon as you are back into the house, kiss the orange blossoms before your mirror and behold! There in the mirror is the image of your future mate – or should be! Eat your half of the orange, and while you are eating you will continue to see the image while the spell is on. This must all be done in absolute secrecy or the thing won't work. I have a friend who told me this magic worked with him! When he looked into the mirror he saw the image of a girl who is now his wife. It would be useless for me to try as I am already a married man.
Source: Campoy, Angel V. Philippine Magazine. Oct 1939, p. 411+