Halloween versus Obon

by 036 Yurika on November 17, 2014 - 2:01am


Thinking of Halloween and Obon, few people would think that they are similar. I certainly did not think them alike. Obon still preserved its original meaning whereas Halloween has become so commercialized that most people around the world just celebrate it as a joyous festival. In the following, I will write about their similarities, differences and which of them has more advantages over the other.


One of the similarities is that both Halloween and Obon take place in during the time between the end of summer and the beginning of winter. Obon is celebrated on the 15th of three different moths, which happened when Japan changed from the lunar calendar to the Gregorian one, and Halloween takes place on the 31st of October. Halloween is said to have originated from the Celts, however, it also seems to have been influenced by Christianity as the word “Halloween” derives from the word “All Hallows’ Eve”, which is the beginning of the Allhallowtide(three days of praying to the saints and departed souls). The Celts lit candles and said prayers to the deceased and Christians are also visiting the graves of their beloved ones, which is another similarity to the Bon Festival with the small difference that the grave and its surroundings are cleaned during Obon. The third similarity is that the Celts believed that during this time spirits were able to come more easily to “our world” and therefore, they saved places at the fire or table and the Japanese ancestors are said to visit the altar. To show the spirits of the ancestors the way home, Japanese people hang a chochin lantern at the entrance of their home, and at Halloween, the Jack- o-’lantern (a pumpkin into which a face is carved in and its inside removed)is put at the doorstep. However, Jack o’ lanterns can also be used to ward off evil or revenge seeking spirits.


The main difference between Halloween and the Bon Festival is that the latter has kept its meaning of honoring and showing gratitude to ones ancestors, whereas Halloween is an event “to humor and ridicule the power of death” and is very commercialized nowadays. Other differences are the Bon dancing, the disguising on Halloween (which is said to have originated from the customs of Samhain , some in order not to be recognized by a vengeance seeking spirit and the trick-and-treating.

I think both festivals are very interesting, however, as a child, I would prefer the Halloween, as it is less serious. On the other hand, the Bon Festival will be known for its true meaning for a long time as the Japanese treasure their traditions, whereas Halloween is already so commercialized throughout the world that its true meaning will get lost.


While researching both festivals, I was surprised to find so many similarities in between them and I think even though Halloween will get more and more commercialized, some people will get interested to know its origin. I hope I was able to make you curious.



References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween





Hello Yurika :^)
I'm Asuka (tasu). I wrote your writting. Your writting was very interesting. I could understand. Halloween and Obon has both similarities and differences points. I didn't know how to celebrate in the Halloween, but I could know them by your writting. I think Obon is celebrated from August 13th to 16th. We can get brake in this season. And we go to grandparents house and we go to grave. I think these are different points.
Thank you for your writting ; )

Thank you for your comment! I am glad you liked my writing...Really, you get holiday on that day? I don't know much about the holidays as there are so many in Japan, but next time I will know it..on 13th to 16th, we have the Obon holiday;)

About the author

My name is Yurika. I am half Japanese and half Swiss. 5 years ago I moved with my mother to Japan. I am living now in Shioya, near Kobe (1hour from Osaka, situated at the ocean.)
I am a first year student at Kansai University of International Studies.