Students celebrate fall holidays from around the world

Children light sparklers at Diwali Celebration.

Candy, costumes and decorations generally bring the idea of Halloween to many minds.

However, as a cultural melting pot, America is home to many different celebrations around Oct. 31, which have nothing to do with Halloween.

In Mexico, Latin America and even some European countries like Spain, Day of the Dead or All Souls’ Day is the primary celebration for Oct. 31 through Nov. 2.

“Nov. 1 is when everyone goes and takes things for children that have passed away,” said Hispanic Culture Organization President Jhoana Patlan. “They take them toys and clean up their tombstones. That day is when smaller children go out to different houses like our trick-or-treat but instead of candy, they actually get money.”

Nov. 2 is the day set aside in remembrance of adults, Patlan said. Many take flowers or the deceased’s favorite meal, placing it on his or her grave.

“My grandmother makes a cross of candles and sets a glass of water there,” she said. “Supposedly it’s like giving the dead water and them drinking it. We know it’s evaporating, but it’s symbolic.”

Patlan said despite the remembrance and mourning, the holiday is more about celebration.

“My dad is from a little city close to (Mexico City), and they actually do a little parade,” she said. “They go to visit each house and pay their respects to the people that are lost. It’s more celebration than mourning because people travel and have parties.”

Another holiday occurring around Halloween is the Hindi holiday, Diwali — also known as The Festival of Lights.

The date ranges from late October to mid-November. The exact date is the 15th day of Kartika on the Hindu calendar. This year Diwali occurred Oct. 23.

Students and cousins Paramjeet and Gagandeep Kaur experienced Diwali in Florence courtesy of Management and Marketing Professor Santanu Borah. He invited them to a friend’s home for a 20-family celebration Diwali.

“At home we pray to Ganesha and Lakshmi for wealth and prosperity,” Paramjeet said. “Here, there is no praying but the foods are the same.”

The holiday is predominantly religious, and often the community gathers at a temple for prayer, the cousins said.

“We light candles, lanterns and olden pots, and exchange gifts and sweets,” Paramjeet said. “The lights are symbolic of the return home of Lord Rama after 14 years of exile.”

Showering blessings of health is more important than anything else during the holiday, she said.

Day of the Dead and Diwali are not the only holidays celebrated in Florence around Halloween. Many Lutheran community members celebrate Reformation Day Oct. 31.

Lauderdale County Republican Party Executive Committee Member and former UNA student Trey Edwards said he celebrates the historic day Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to a German church in response to several issues he saw with the Catholic Church.

“Reformation Day is sort of like a religious Independence Day for me,” Edwards said. “It is a way of celebrating the beginning of our independence from the old Catholic Church and into a way of life and thought that ultimately became the foundation of much of our American concepts and freedoms today.”

Edwards recalls being in a class of Professor of History Matthew Schoenbachler, where discussion was based on Reformation and how the event shaped not only individual beliefs, but ultimately the Constitution.

“I am proud to celebrate this rich history,” Edwards said. “Personally, it makes a lot more sense to celebrate a major historical event and religious freedom than to encourage kids to ask strangers for candy. Which, let’s be honest — is kinda creepy.”