Halloween Across Cultures

October 31, 2021


How did you celebrate Halloween, Samhain, All Saints/Souls Day, Harvest time?

Want to get to know another culture without travelling?
Attend a cultural event right in your home city. People love to share their traditions and you can learn a lot. I did.

I went to the Dia De Los Muertos, Day of the Dead festival here in Cleveland, Ohio with my Mexican American friends. So, today I’ll highlight that.

Fun Fotos Follow.- taken by me.


Mexico and parts of Latin America, as well as some southwestern parts of the USA celebrate Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) to honor those who have passed away. The Gates of Heaven open up at midnight on October 31 and the souls of children return to Earth to be reunited with their families on November 1. Then on November 2, the souls of adults come down from heaven to join in the festivities.

The Aztecs developed the ritual some 3,000 years ago. During the Spanish conquest, Catholic leaders exerted their influence on the tradition and the resulting mash up created the Day of the Dead celebration.

Recognizing death as a natural part of the human experience, without mourning or sadness, Día de los Muertos celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties, and activities they had enjoyed in life. The dead are awakened from their eternal sleep to share these celebrations with their loved ones.

The Parade Begins Stilt People against the CLE OHIO backdrop

The most familiar symbols are calacas and calaveras (skeletons and skulls), which appear everywhere: in candied sweets, as parade masks, as dolls, on altars. Calacas and calaveras are portrayed as enjoying life, often in fancy colorful clothes and entertaining situations.

Mariachi Band Music Horse Skeleton Rider

Día de los Muertos combines indigenous Aztec ritual with Catholicism. Temporary private altars (ofrendas) are constructed in the homes for deceased loved ones constructed in the homes for deceased loved ones.

Aztec Dance Performance Note the cross made with cempasúchil 
marigolds on the left side of this altar.

Every altar includes the four elements: water, wind, earth and fire. Water: water or alcohol in bottles. Wind: Papel picado, traditional paper banners. Earth: Food, especially bread. Fire: Candles, in the shape of a cross to represent the cardinal directions, so the spirits can find their way

. .

Pan de los Muertos (Bread of the Dead) is sometimes baked in the shape of bones, and dusted with sugar.
It’s only baked this time of year.

The cempasúchil, a type of marigold flower native to Mexico, is placed on altars and graves. The vibrant color and strong scent allow the ancestors to find their way back for this occasion.

Altar for pets too Pet Cemetery display outdoors

Monarch butterfly: These butterflies, which migrate to Mexico each fall, were believed to be the spirits of the ancestors coming to visit.


Feel free to connect and share your tradition with me? EMAIL
I’d enjoy learning about you.


Many cultures around the world celebrate similar traditions of honoring the dead, each with different rituals and times of the year.

LIST and LINKS to LEARN more:

Samhain – Ireland and Scotland  
Day of Dracula – Romania 
Kawasaki (川崎) Halloween Parade – Japan 
Pangangaluluwa – The Philippines 
The Hungry Ghost Festival – Hong Kong
Pitru Paksha (पितृ पक्ष) – India 
Dzień Saduszny All Souls Day – Poland
Awuru Odo Festival – Nigeria
Phchŭm Bĕn (ភ្ជុំបិណ្ឌ) Ancestors Day – Cambodia
Ognissanti All Saints’ Day– Italy 
Kukeri (кукери) – Bulgaria
Gai Jatra (गाई जात्रा) Cow Festival – Nepal
Tết Trung Nguyên The Ghost Festival – Vietnam
Hari Raya Galungan – Bali, Indonesia
Radonitsa (Радоница) Day of Rejoicing – Russia
Totensonntag Sunday of the Dead – Germany
La Toussaint All Saints Day – Brittany, France
Jum Il-Mejtin – Malta


Twenty Halloween-Like Traditions Around the World
Unveiling the Spirit of Halloween Cultures Around The World


Ancient Times: Halloween Begins as Samhain
10th Century: Samhain Is Christianized
The Middles Ages: Trick-or-Treating (Souling) Emerges
19th Century: Jack-o-Lanterns Take Shape
19th Century: Halloween Comes to America – And With It Comes Mischief 
1930s: Haunted Houses Become a Thing in the USA
1950s: Halloween Costumes Go Mainstream 


My latest book: Doing Business with Ease Overseas:Building Cross Cultural Relationships That Last takes you not only on a journey across the globe, but a journey within yourself.
1. Have you ever felt uneasy when you don’t understand another person’s accent?
2. Do you ever feel uncomfortable when you interact with people from different cultures in your work?
3. Does your business require developing relationships internationally?

Link to Schedule a Call


“Harriet is a compassionate, articulate and thoughtful life coach. She helped me during Covid on life issues in a loving and effective manner which I never thought would l be possible before trying her services. She actively listened to my concerns and with specific coaching techniques I was able to unravel what was going on and how to navigate solutions.
I highly recommend Harriet as a globally-minded coach and a treasure to work with.”.
Leslie Kodish, Senior Corporate Patent Paralegal, Seattle WA

Link to More Testimonials

Countries Have Borders, People Do Not

1. Have you ever felt uneasy when you don’t understand another person’s accent?
2. Do you ever feel uncomfortable when you interact with people from different cultures in your work?
3. Does your business require developing relationships internationally?

This blog is for you. 

Let’s Create, Communicate, and Collaborate 
Countries have borders, People do not.

What are your interests, concerns, questions, and needs?

Email me at harriet@harrietrussell.com 

“The World is One Family”
Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam
 वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्

Harriet L. Russell, CEO
Cross-Cultural Strategist
Business Ease Overseas
Tel: +1-440-236-6366

Helping Multicultural Teams work better together locally and across the globe with Mindfulness and Less Stress.

Conscious Communications: Know Yourself

Global Communications

by Harriet Russell

People learn and take in information in different ways. We speak depending upon who we are addressing, what situation we are in (environment, atmosphere), who’s within hearing range, and what the subject matter is.

Unless you grew up in the same family (and even this is not a given), you probably have a different communication style.

We are all unique. Remember and embrace our differences.
When I know myself, then I am able to better see these differences, and therefore communicate and listen more effectively.

Here is an intercultural example of how to relate to people who communicate differently. It is a look at what we call high context and low context cultures. Have some fun noticing these different styles in your own friends, family, and professional relationships, even within your community.

Low Context cultures send unambiguous messages. You see what you get, time is of the essence, they are more straightforward, and have transaction oriented business meetings. The USA, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, and Scandinavian countries are of this orientation. They think that High Context countries do not respect deadlines. How about your acquaintances?

Think about management in the USA. How fast can you do it, what’s the profit margin, and hopefully, is it legal?

High Context cultures rely more on non verbal communication, indirect verbal signals, and implicit meanings. Developing trust is critical before any business can be done. China, Japan, Korea, Spain, Greece, Turkey, the entire Arab world, Latin American and Africa have this orientation. This a lot of places to write off business from If you do not understand. They think that Low context countries are too brash and impatient. How are you perceived?

High context is more foreign to us. It is not the average business style in American culture. However, we use it a lot in personal relationships.

Ask yourself: How direct are you in your requests? Expressing your needs? Do you use a different context in your business and personal relationships?

Remember: Nothing is wrong or right. It is just a matter of getting to know yourself.

Seeing yourself clearly, requires being objective. Objectivity best happens when we are relaxed and accepting of reality. How objective are you?

Some cultures are more defined in appropriateness. In Japanese, there are 107 ways to say “you” but in Spanish and French there are only two (formal and informal). In modern English, we use “you” for everyone regardless of their position, age, sex, or socio-economic standing.

One way I have worked with communications is to access the body-mind field. For example, when I feel stress, my mind is like a filter distorting reality, and then doubts and little fears crop up. I imagine that what’s not working and the way I respond to it will “never” change and what I do want will be compromised.

When I am relaxed and at peace with myself and the world around me, I can “cross over” my mind into a place of being, totally present and “in the moment”. I listen better and I communicate more clearly and joyfully. Awareness brings relaxation. The practice of yoga is to look within and to uncover the light within. When the body and mind are in complete synergy, it brings out the spirit, the heart, the joy.

Know yourself. Which way do you communicate? Is this your preference? How do you like others to communicate with you?

When I know myself, I am more open to others. When I am relaxed, I am more attuned. This helps me to relate better to others who communicate differently, honoring each other in our diversity.

I continue to learn how to bridge communication style differences. I check in on myself: How am I feeling right now in my body-mind field? Am I under stress, apprehensive, locked into a narrow frame of mind, focused on only my needs and wants?

Respectful communications require open mindedness and an open heart. And that begins within ourselves.

When Yes Means No!

Harriet Russell in Belarus

What You Need To Know About Cross Cultural Communications

For 35 years, Harriet Russell has been doing one thing — Stopping people from offending each other when doing business internationally. From managing Public Relations at Sony in the Big Apple to translating for Peter Jennings and the ABC News staff at the Tokyo Economic Summit to jetting off to Minsk for the U.S. State Department to educate and motivate entrepreneurs, Harriet understands when “Yes” really means “No,” and makes sure you do, too.

Harriet lived and worked overseas for eight years and is fluent in several languages. She is a published author by Encyclopedia Britannica, and has taught intercultural communications at universities here and abroad. Harriet has been commended by the Fulbright Commission and given an award by Rotary International for creating friendly relations among peoples of the world — and not just because she knows to kiss twice in Spain and three times in Italy.

Harriet has been interviewed by NBC, ABC, CBS, Crane’s Business, Asahi Shimbun Daily, and more.

Energy Gains and Energy Drains

Kyrgyszstan kidsEnergy is our life force. Scientifically it is called an electromagnetic field, in Asia it is chi or prana, and others see it as divine energy, spirit. Energy is what we are made of. Energy is neutral, not good or bad. It is merely balanced or unbalanced, which means we can change it and bring it back into a state of wholeness.

There are various levels of energy. At a minimum, we are using energy for mere survival, or just making it through the day or the work week. This is our human potential. We can go beyond taking care of the body and daily duties, however, which allows us energy to grow, create, and act in accordance with our life purpose to evolve. This is our spiritual potential.

Ways to increase your energy and keep it balanced:

Recognize your energy gains and energy drains.
My short term energy gains include massage, yoga and “yoga nidra” relaxation and meditation, being with nature (gardening, walking in the woods, just breathing fresh air), eating organic whole foods and only when I am hungry, balance between work and play, and having both solo time and social time.

When I am feeling unbalanced, I catch it early so that I do not become ill (Disease = dis-ease.) If I am inside too much at the computer, I take a break outside. If I have many days at meetings or consultations, I balance out with a day in the office for paperwork. If I have a training to direct, I keep space in my schedule before and after it. I am constantly monitoring my energy gains and drains, so I can be more aware and therefore be able to make changes if I chose to.

Do one thing nice for yourself each day.
What is the best way you nurture yourself? I have a daily yoga and relaxation practice. Then whatever happens during the day, I can handle it with less stress because I know I have done this one thing for myself. This way, as the days and weeks roll by, no matter what I have or have not accomplished on my “to do” list, I can always say, I did one thing nice for myself each day.

Statistics show that stress is the underlying cause for 90% of doctor’s visits. When we discover how to work with stress, we can stop reacting to life, people and situations, and begin to embrace life fully, no matter how it manifests.

Simplify your life.
Beyond house decluttering, workplace organization, or time management, the most important simplification is to clear your mind of unnecessary energy draining thoughts.

Be positive and when you are not, accept yourself. Thoughts hold energy too. A seed thought manifests into words and then actions. We attract into our lives what we think and say.

Focus on what you have and do not worry about what you do not have. Drop guilt, self judgment, regret, comparison, and desire. These are all mental drains. Merely acknowledge these thoughts and then move on. Observe what is, what you are doing, and your current reality. Pat yourself on the back and cultivate an “attitude of gratitude”.

Stay fully present in the moment.
This is a great energy gain. What does “being present” mean anyway? It is learning to recognize mental distractions….worry, fear, remembering the past, etc. Be a witness with non-judgmental awareness and just watch the thoughts go by without trying to change anything. Just notice your breath, your body tensions and use this body awareness to anchor the mind. Watch without suppression or reaction.

Interpretation of the past and projection of the future are the natural states of the waking mind, but they are not reality. Being in the moment is a body-mind integration which brings focus, clarity, creativity, and relaxation. We need to give the mind a true rest. Just be. Yoga nidra relaxation and meditation are ways to change our consciousness, and that same frame of mind can be used throughout the day.

Shift from constantly thinking and doing and drop into a state of feeling and being. Your energy resources will grow.

Follow your own unique path, your passion and make your life what you dream it to be.
This is a long term energy gain! It begins to create energy with just the thought and idea. Be and keep becoming who you are meant to be. And this begins with knowing yourself.

I keep creating the changes in my life and work that keep me following my own unique calling. That gives me mental energy to keep going with enthusiasm.

giving backGive back to the world you live in and serve others.
Energy keeps moving. After taking care of yourself, you have extra energy to give to others, and by serving open heartedly, you then receive more energy back again. Serve without seeking reward, and not from just a sense of duty, which is an energy drain. You might do volunteer work, share or teach your expertise, or just take a moment to acknowledge someone with a kind word. I took time off of work to volunteer teach in Kyrgyzstan for three months.

Love is the greatest energy gain. Open your heart without conditions attached. And the energy of an open heart will come back to you many fold.