Give your heart this Giving Tuesday

Will you be giving this Giving Tuesday..?

Love them or loathe them, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are upon us like Jabba the Hutt’s cackling little mate on our shoulder, egging us on to buy crappy bits of plastic or worthless tat for our loved ones… What could potentially redeem us from such impulse buys?

 

Well, Giving Tuesday of course! The international day of donating, volunteering and doing other good deeds, like helping an eldery lady across the road (socially distanced of course), whether she likes it or not.

Giving to charity

Here at DeadHappy you have the option to leave a charity legacy when you die as part of your deathwishes, and if you lot were as generous in life as you are in death I’m pretty sure I’d never have to buy a pint in a pub again… Ohhhh, pint in a pub, remember those days…

 

Our generous customers invoke images of Mother Teresa by ‘deathwishing’ around a whopping £150,000 of cash over the last 2 months to charities that mean a lot to them – from animal sanctuaries to children charities to environmental issues – you guys have it covered and we thank you for your eternal kindness.

 

It seems that celebrities are also more willing to give their fortunes away (and wouldn’t trust their teens with a trust fund).

Giving Tuesday Celebrity 1:

Bill and Melinda Gates

Worth a fabulous 112 billion according to Forbes, have promised most of their fortune to charity. Along with others they created and signed the Giving Pledge, which encourages celebrities and the super duper rich to donate their cash to charity.

GIVING TUESDAY CELEBRITY 2:

Michael Bloomsberg

Former New York mayor, has also signed up to the Giving Pledge, “If you want to do something for your children and show how much you love them, the single best thing, by far, is to support organisations that will create a better world for them and their children,” I’m sure his kids are ecstatic about that…

GIVING TUESDAY CELEBRITY 3:

Daniel Craig

Finds the idea of inheritance “distasteful”. He once said, “My philosophy is to get rid of it or give it away before you go. I don’t want to leave great sums to the next generation.” I’m hoping he gives it all to the ‘Jaws Foundation’, a charity set up to help those with metal teeth… (yes, I just made that up.)

GIVING TUESDAY CELEBRITY 4:

Joan Crawford

The actress died in 1977 and left nothing to two of her four children, “It is my intention to make no provision herein for my son Christopher or my daughter Christina for reasons which are well known to them.” Oo-er, the highest level of the ‘I’m so disappointed with you’ telling off. Instead, the famous actress left her money to charities like the Muscular Dystrophy Association of America, the American Cancer Society and loads more…

GIVING TUESDAY CELEBRITY 5:

Kirk Douglas

The most famous celeb death charity donation recently has been Kirk Douglas. Who left it all to the Douglas Foundation, which is committed to helping those who might not otherwise be able to help themselves. None of his children, including Michael Douglas, received a penny. I’m sure he’ll be alright though with his measly 300 million.

Keep on giving

So keep on giving peeps, not only will it potentially get you a seat next to your fave god in the afterlife, it’ll save your kids, or your mates’ kids, from being spoiled trust fund divas with no clue how to survive in this big bad world of stuff.

MAKE A DEATHWISH

The ultimate gifts of love

Christmas gifts: the ultimate gift of love edition

Ultimate acts of love

According to Buddha, “Those whose minds are shaped by selfless thoughts give joy when they speak or act.” What a wise bloke. In celebration of Christmas and a time of giving, we’ve racked our selfish, human brains to find the nicest, most selfless things you can give.

Christmas gifts

A cuppa and a chat

Put the kettle on this Christmas and have a chat with someone you love. It’s always a good time to talk about mental health and any concerns you have. 1 in 4 people are affected by mental health problems in their life. That’s someone in your family, or in your car, or who sits opposite you at work. Or it’s you. There are great resources out there if you don’t want to talk to someone you know. Check these out:

Death cleaning

The new year is coming, and it’s time for life admin. The Swedish have a word for it: döstädning. It means ‘death cleaning’ and it’s how the Swedes take care of the future without them in it. They clear out their crap to make life easier for their loved ones when they die. We’re not wishing the ultimate demise on you of course, but having your admin sorted can give you an incredible peace of mind and have you enjoy your life more. Tried and tested.

 

Inspired? Then chuck out your chintz and make room for the stuff that matters: like life insurance. We believe life insurance is the ultimate act of love and the best thing you can leave behind. Much better than a creepy clown statue, anyway.

Christmas gifts
Christmas gifts

Your time

Without being preachy or anything, your time is a precious gift. Just because you can’t put it under the tree doesn’t mean it can’t be the perfect present. Find a cause that makes your heart sing, like giving to a food bank or volunteering with a soup kitchen, and give your time generously. It’s what Buddha would have wanted.

A meaningful gift

Whether it’s a, erm, toy built in your image, or sending your mates on a holiday to Ibiza, you can make a unique deathwish with DeadHappy. Not a nihilistic suicide quest, but a statement of your deathly intentions – an expression of your final wishes. We ask one question: what do you want to happen when you die? Then it’s up to you to decide what you want, and get it insured so we can make it happen.


Glitter Bomb

Deathwish of the week, nay month - a penis shaped parting

knob banana

 

What do you do when your boss is a ‘colossal knob’?

 

Shower him in sparkly penis shaped glitter when you die of course!

 

The ultimate karma bomb!

 

 

Anything slightly anarchic really gets our blood pumping here at DeadHappy so when we read this deathwish from the vigilante TJ (identity protected – because quite frankly, we wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise for anyone) we just had to get in touch.

 

The little rebel had this to say:

‘So he was my boss at the last pub I worked at and he was the most arrogant man on the planet who would just mope about spreading his misery and gloom everywhere. He treated the staff like slaves and he was better than just about anyone! Honestly if the queen visited he would have expected her to curtsey to him.. He was a knob. He hated any guests with an allergy, or kids, or elderly family members. The man was a total penis. That’s when inspiration hit!

 

Penis…. Glitter?

 

Glitter Bomb!

 

Penis glitter bomb 😈

 

If the man is going to act like a colossal knob then upon my death bed I shall have my revenge with an explosive bomb of penis glitter’

 

We can see the ex-bosses face now TJ, also when they’re still picking penis glitter out of their tea a month later, it’s just the deathwish that just keeps on giving.

 

Glitter being thrown

Deathwishes don’t have to be about money – although that does help get stuff done. Deathwishes were created by DeadHappy to get people to think about what they want to happen when they die.

Once you’ve created one, share it. Don’t keep it a secret!

 

Fancy showering someone in glitter when you die or have another brilliant insurrectionary idea?  We really, really want to hear about it.

 

 

Connect with your inner rebel. Create an awesome Deathwish, you know you want to.

 

Vive la revolution!


Día de Muertos

What is the Mexican Día de Muertos festival?

What’s this festival called and what is the translation?

Día de Muertos (also called Día de los Muertos) means the Day of the Dead. In reality it spans two days, and the real emphasis is on the Noche de Muertos (the night of the dead) when the souls of the dead are said to come for a visit.

When is it?

1st and 2nd November.

Where does Día de Muertos take place?

Mexico, and throughout Latin America – but its popularity is growing, not least because of the striking imagery of the sugar skulls and films like Coco, so it’s now common to find people holding Day of the Dead-themed parties in the US and Europe.

What happens during Día de Muertos celebrations?

Imagine if, when someone died, it wasn’t “goodbye forever”, but “see you in November”. That’s the central idea of Day of the Dead: the curtain between the worlds of the living and the dead flutter, and the dead slip through for a visit. In Michoacán, where I went to research my book, they see an arrival of butterflies shortly before the Day of the Dead. They announce that the celebration is about to come, and many people believe they are the souls returning.

How did it start?

Day of the Dead began as a monthlong Aztec festival, celebrated around what we would call June. But when the Spanish invaded, they forced it over to the dates of the Catholic All Saints and All Souls days in a colonialist attempt to pass it off as the same thing. Now, on 1st November, the souls of the angelitos come to visit, the ‘little angels’, meaning children and the unmarried (virgins, basically ––you can just see a little bit of Catholicism peeping through, there). The second night sees visits from the souls of adults. In practice, everything melds into one big celebration; families come together, and much as when living relatives come to stay, everything has to be perfect.

The sight of cemeteries

The cemeteries are an incredible sight: every grave is carpeted with marigolds, lit up by candles and watched over by families sitting up all night by the tombs, wrapped in blankets. It’s solemn in the graveyards, but it’s not a solemn occasion. Everywhere else it’s a fiesta, an overt celebration of life.

Offerings

The nucleus of the Day of the Dead is the ofrendas, the offerings for the spirits. People build altars – in their homes, in shops, and enormous ones in the town squares – often decorated with marigolds and pictures of the deceased, but the most important element is the food and drink for the spirits, who arrive hungry and thirsty (if you’d like to build one at home, check out our how-to guide). Jamie our guide in Michoacán told me:

“When we put down ofrendas, we’re inviting the dead to visit. You can invite anyone you’re thinking of. They will come. And just remembering them is to ask them to come.”

What should I expect from Día de Muertos?

In the graveyards, a stunning display of candles, marigolds and families quietly having a lovely time. Also, expect way more tourists than you’d like, many of them rather rudely clicking photos in the faces of people nodding off at 4am. And, as with anywhere beautiful and tourist-heavy these days, there will be drones.

Outside the graveyards, expect an all-night party. The zócalo (town square) will probably have a stage and huge speakers blasting out music until late. Expect lots of eating, drinking, and general merriment.

What shouldn't I expect from Día de Muertos?

An early night.

What can we learn from this festival?

When I visited Mexico to research Day of the Dead for my book, at first I found myself feeling sad. An American tourist asked if people believe the dead are really visiting, literally, and Jaime answered that they do. I was still bereaved after finding my father-in-law dead after a week the previous year, and I found myself wondering how I was supposed to get anything from the ritual of welcoming dead relatives when I couldn’t bring myself to literally believe in it.

Ghosts and spirits

Which is my way of telling you I quite spectacularly missed the point. For my fellow cynics, atheists and party-poopers, I have an important message: Day of the Dead is not only worth the trouble if you literally believe in ghosts and spirits.

Here’s the thing: when someone dies, they leave for good; and rather inconveniently, the love you have doesn’t go anywhere. You’re stuck with it, sitting inside you with no outlet – which hurts, because, as Massive Attack so astutely pointed out in their 1998 song Teardrop, “Love is a verb, love is a doing word”. And as I visited more festivals for the dead, read about death rituals and interviewed people across multiple countries and in multiple languages, I began to realise the point of it all: Day of the Dead brings the dead to life simply by giving action to the love that remains. Welcoming a dead person for a visit, pouring them a drink, leaving them a snack; it’s about giving your love something to do, someone to care for, and somewhere to go.

Your legacy will live on long after you’re gone. And although death is still seen as taboo in our society, communicating about how you’d like to be remembered  can make a difference to those around you.

Express my wishes

Purepecha altar for Day of the Dead

How to build your own Day of the Dead altar

Day of the Dead Altar Building

This time five years ago, Day of the Dead found me bereaved, far from home, and methodically beheading flowers. It’s ok, I’d been asked to.

I was staying at a B&B in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, and as I was there researching Day of the Dead for my forthcoming book, I volunteered to help build their altar. I cut the heads off marigolds, leaving an inch or two of stem, then a guy called Luis weaved them onto a frame, while a Canadian woman hauled in more whenever we ran low. Once the structure was built and set up in the hotel breakfast room, people wandered in and out adding the touches that would transform it into an altar.

Before I get into how you can build a Day of the Dead altar at home, I should point out that there is no hard and fast method. Mexico is an enormous country with various cultures, over 60 indigenous languages and hundreds of dialects; so unsurprisingly, a Day of the Dead altar in a northern desert town will look different to one in the lush mountains of Oaxaca. In Morelos, where I lived for two years, sugar skulls were a common sight on altars, whereas in other areas it’s frowned upon.

I’ll be passing on the method favoured by the Purépecha community indigenous to Michoacán, but keep in mind it’s about honouring the dead, not just achieving a ‘look’. If you have access to a stalk of sugarcane and want to construct an arch woven with golden flowers, have at it – but just as you’re no less married if you say ‘I do’ in jeans and Crocs, you can have a Day of the Dead altar without all the bells and whistles (though if the person you’re honouring liked bells and blew a whistle, by all means chuck ‘em on there).

What you'll need

Day of the Dead Altar essential 1

Table (and a candle)

You’ll need a surface for your altar, ideally with more than one level. You could just place a box on the table so you can display pictures of your dead above the candles and offerings. Some altars have multiple levels starting at the floor like a little flight of stairs.

A candle will light the path home for the spirits.

Purepecha altar for Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead Altar essential 2

Pictures of the dead

Who are you honouring? Put their picture on the top level. You could just have one photo, several pictures of the same person, or even crowd it with everyone you’re welcoming for a visit – this could just be family and friends, but I’ve known people to include pictures of people they never knew but whose loss they feel keenly anyway, like David Bowie.

Offering for day of the dead

Day of the Dead Altar essential 3

Ofrendas

The ofrendas (offerings) are the nucleus of Day of the Dead – namely, food and drink. The idea is that the dead have come a long way, so arrive hungry and thirsty. In Mexico altars are usually adorned with fruit and pan de muerto (bread of the dead), an intensely sweet, sugar-encrusted roll; and a bottle of beer, or shot of tequila – but you can leave out anything the person liked to eat or drink.

And yes, it’s fine to eat the food after the festival is over, but where I lived people wrinkled their noses at the suggestion, since the belief is that the dead suck all the nutrients out of it.

Day of the Dead Altar essential 4

Affects

This is by no means essential, but some people like to leave out things that signify or belonged to the dead person, like a stack of cards or a piece of their jewellery.

Day of the Dead Altar essential 5

The four elements

In the Purépecha tradition, home altars have to include representations of fire, earth, air and water. The drinks you leave out represent water, and the candles provide fire – as do sticks of incense (and though it’s pricey here in the UK, if you can get copal incense, the aroma will transport you to Mexico instantly).

Fruit offering for day of the dead

Fruit represents earth, and the best way to represent air is to hang something off it so it can blow in the wind – a lot of altars in Pátzcuaro shoot two birds with one stone by hanging bananas off the edge of the altar.

Day of the Dead Altar essential 6

Flowers, preferably marigolds

Flowers represent the fragility of life, and I like to imagine they symbolise the dead blooming again, if only for this brief visit.

The flower of the season is the marigold. Its vibrant orange is everywhere during the season of the dead: we see it on pumpkins as Halloween muscles in, on the autumn leaves as they flutter to the ground. In Mexico, it’s the flor de muertos, the flower of the dead, and the scent (especially strong when you squeeze the petals) is said to help guide the dead to the living world. Known as cempazúchitl (also spelled cempasúchil), it combines the Nahuatl words for ‘twenty’ and ‘flower’; the word ‘twenty’ was used to represent ‘many’, so the likely translation is ‘flower with many petals’. Those many petals come in handy as they can be arranged to make a path to the altar, or a border, or just scattered for decoration and aroma.

.

Day of the Dead parade with marigolds

Tips on finding marigolds

Despite being native to the Americas, they’re often sold under the name ‘African marigolds’. I haven’t always found it super easy to find fresh marigolds in the UK, as they’re often unavailable or sold out. But don’t despair, you could always buy artificial garlands and store them away the rest of the year like Christmas tinsel. You can also get real dried marigolds on Etsy – or my sneaky tactic is to scatter marigold-petal tea for the colour and fragrance.

Happy building, and Feliz Día de Muertos!


Altar to remember people after their death

Death in different cultures

The biggest lessons other cultures can teach us about death

It all starts with the fear of death. Perhaps it was inevitable that after my fiancé and I found his father dead after a week I would end up anxiety-ridden, agoraphobic, and then somehow travelling the world visiting seven festivals for the dead. Tale as old as time, right?

I began the journey (to Mexico, Nepal, Sicily, Thailand, Madagascar, Japan and Indonesia) with a burden of misconceptions and the vague notion that my deep terror of death was misplaced. Now, four years later and on the cusp of publishing the book that sprang from it all, here are a few of the biggest lessons I brought home.

# Death lesson 1

Death is normal. Who knew? (Seriously, did anyone know?)

Life has a 100% mortality rate, yet each time it’s presented as if something has gone terribly, terribly awry. In films we watched as kids, death was a punishment for baddies. Then we all grew up to discover we’re bound for a baddies’ ending. Thanks, Disney.

 

The idea that death is a normal, ordinary thing only occurred to me in Nepal during the annual festival of Gai Jatra, during which everyone who’s lost someone that year joins a city-wide procession. After the sudden death of his son, King Pratap Malla (who ruled Nepal from 1641–74) invited everyone who’d been bereaved that year to the palace. The Queen, who had been utterly inconsolable, watched as the palace became crammed with people. Because the biggest lie grief tells us is that we’re alone, and the visual trick of seeing thousands of people who have been through it too still holds today.

My god, I thought, as I stared across the crowd, all bouncing and dancing and singing to let the spirits know it was fine to go on to Heaven, I think death might be…normal?!

# Death lesson 2

We’re afraid because we link death with a loss of power

And sure, it’s true, if you want to get all literal about it: when we die, many believe we go to an afterlife or reincarnate – but as for this life, we’re done. Our projects are finished, our power is gone.

Unless you die in the Highlands of Madagascar, or in Tana Toraja in Indonesia, where the dead are seen as the intermediary between people and God. You want good grades, health, a windfall? You pray to your ancestors.

Where death is associated with a gain in power, suddenly not only are the dead remembered with fondness, their actual corpses are invited to the party. In Madagascar they’re exhumed and wrapped in a fresh shroud. In Tana Toraja, they’re exhumed, dressed in smart new clothes, held in poses for photos and are brought onto FaceTime calls with family who couldn’t make it.

death festival in Madagascar

# Death lesson 3

You can have a continuing relationship with a dead person

Death festival in Madagascar

They say “grief is love with nowhere to go”, and we nod along sadly, as if all over the world there aren’t rituals and festivals and events with the clear purpose of giving the love somewhere to go.

 

In Mexico, they welcome the souls of the dead by setting out their favourite food and drink. In China (and Thailand, where I celebrated with my extended family), they picnic in the cemeteries and burn paper money, a kind of divine postal system of sending gifts to the dead.

 

And in Tana Toraja, I watched a woman sit by her long-dead grandmother and take in the dramatic mountain view. She then turned, spotted some dust in her hair, and brushed it away.

No one told me how ridiculous it would seem that this could ever be called ‘morbid’, ‘ghoulish’ or ‘macabre’. No one told me how visible the love would be.

# Death lesson 4

The policy of silence does nothing but harm

Ok, I’ll acknowledge the short-term benefit of not talking about death until we absolutely have to: for that moment, we don’t have to feel a twinge at thinking about something we’ve been told is fearsome. We can kick the can down the road. And who doesn’t love those few moments before someone forces you to pick up the can? Ooh, those can-free moments are like a carnival cruise.

How shrewd of our repressed society to teach that there’s something distasteful, even shameful, about bringing up something people would rather not discuss anyway. Talking about money is vulgar, tacky, gauche. Talking about sex is uncomfortable, rude, a bit much. And talking about death is, apparently, ‘morbid’ – alright, if a guy is licking his lips while talking about the intricate details of bloating and decay, I’ll agree that’s a bit morbid, and no way to conduct yourself on a first date – but it shouldn’t be gasp-inducing to discuss the inescapable fact of your own death, or your wishes for what happens afterwards.

Dealing with death denial

But death denial isn’t just silly; it’s violence. Shouting down our parents and grandparents when they mention they won’t be here one day may seem like a way to say, “I love you and I want you here”, but the knock-on effect of the policy of silence is heartbreaking: people with terminal illnesses in Britain often find themselves deserted by friends and family who “don’t know what to say”, or “want to remember them as they were”. While writing This Party’s Dead I had the opportunity to chat to Laura Green, a lecturer in palliative care at the University of Manchester, who told me when people are dying they are “almost treated as though they’re dead bodies, even though biologically things are carrying on”. They die social deaths before their physical deaths, simply because we don’t have the emotional equipment to face it.

Final thoughts

The western way of grieving

If my brief were to defend our way of death over what I’ve seen at the festivals, I’ve got nothing. Because in places that hold celebrations for the dead, people remain part of the community long after their physical deaths. The love that sustained them in life is still there, bringing them meals, buying them clothes, brushing the dust out of their hair.

Talking and planning for death

Talking about death isn’t easy. So we put the conversation off, and off, and off again, always taking the short-term avoidance, the chance to pretend it’s something that happens to someone else, and never to us.

If there’s one lesson other cultures can teach about death, it’s to embrace it. It will happen to the best (and indeed, worst) of us. And talking and planning for what should happen when we’re no longer here can help us lead a fuller life.


Christmas break according to santa

Things to do this Christmas break

Twixmas, Christmas hangover, New Year’s Eve-eve – whatever you call it, that weird week between the last bite of roast potato and pretending you know the words to Auld Lang Syne can be a bit, well, dead. No one knows what day it is or what they’re supposed to be doing.

Just like the rest of this year has been, really…

But this month we’re coming to the rescue: we’ve compiled some of the best things to do to keep you occupied once the batteries run out on your new gadgets and before you want to kill your family.

# Christmas break activity 1

Binge on a boxset

We love telly. Becoming one with the couch and building a blanket fort are compulsory. Why not get stuck into a dead good boxset?

Some of our death-inspired faves are Six Feet Under, The Good Place, and After Life. If you’re feeling less morbid, stick with The Muppet Christmas Carol and just skip the spooky bits.

# Christmas Break Activity 2

Go outside (if you’re allowed…)

Contrary to popular belief, the outside world still exists. Somewhere, beyond the curtains and trail of biscuit crumbs, is a frosty winter wonderland waiting for you.

Check out your local walks, parks, runs, hikes and get some fresh air. It makes the celebratory hot chocolate afterwards even better.

# Christmas Break Activity 3

Stay indoors (nothing new here then)

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Count us in.

If going outside isn’t on the cards, stay inside and start a new hobby – they’ve been proven to increase feelings of wellbeing and boost your mental health, which can only be a good thing in the longer, darker months.

Try journaling, rating your favourite tea bags, coding, knitting, or whatever makes you happy.

# Christmas Break Activity 4

Plan ahead

There’s never a good time to die. According to the latest 007 movie, there’s No Time to Die, and if Bond says it then it must be true. And dying between Christmas and new year would be inconvenient at best. So before you die, because, FYI, you eventually will, make sure you’re prepared with the Swiss army knife of life insurance. DeadHappy life insurance plans let you plan for tomorrow while paying a cheaper rate today. Happy days.

Get some life insurance

Unusual Christmas traditions

DeadHappy presents: Unusual Christmas traditions from around the world

Last Christmas I gave you my… radish?

Ah, Christmas. A time for peace, love and snacks. Lots of snacks. We went rummaging in the internet’s Christmas box to find you some of the best global traditions. But under the tinsel and slightly cross-eyed fairy, we found some of the best examples of weird Christmas stuff you’ve hopefully not heard a thousand times before. So settle down with your preferred festive beverage and get comfy.

Here’s our top 5 weirdest Christmas traditions.

# Unusual Tradition 1

Yule Lads

No, not The Inbetweeners Christmas special. The Yule Lads, or Jólasveinarnir, are 13 Icelandic sprites that visit lucky – or unlucky – children on the 13 nights leading up to Christmas. Every night, kids leave their shoes by the window to receive a gift if they’ve been good, or a rotting potato if they’ve not. Our favourites are food-meddling Skyrgámur (Skyr-Gobbler) and Bjúgnakrækir (Sausage-Swiper).

# Unusual Tradition 2

Mari Lwyd

Christmas is inherently creepy. Most traditions involve bargaining with a stranger for presents or moral issues. Mari Lwyd from the Welsh valleys is no different. This Pagan-inspired creep-fest involves a frankly terrifying hobby horse with a HORSE’S SKULL ON A POLE carried by someone hidden under a cape. The horse-spirit visits people’s houses and asks to be let in – but not by asking, but through singing. The householders have to refuse them entry – also through song – and then some kind of sick rap battle ensues until the Mari Lwyd is allowed into your house or not. Give me tuneless carol singers any day.

# Unusual Tradition 3

Indonesia

Just when you thought dying would get you out of visiting the family at Christmas, in Indonesia – they come to you. In Manado, North Sulawesi, Christmas starts early on December 1st and carries on until the first Sunday in January. During this time, families visit the graves of their loved ones, giving them a good hoover and laying fresh flowers, fairy lights and generally hanging out with snacks and drinks. We bet they don’t get roped into the annual game of Monopoly though.

# Unusual Tradition 4

Veganuary starts early in Egypt

Think you’re being virtuous by going vegan in the New Year? Sorry, health and wellness fans, Egyptians have beaten you to it by doing Vegan December. Vegadvent? We’ll come up with a better name. Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt follow a strict plant-based diet throughout the month leading up to Christmas, called Kiahk, before celebrating Christmas on January 7th. And they don’t even post on Instagram about it.

# Unusual Tradition 5

Noche de los rábanos

We always save the best ‘til last. South America has so many awesome festivals, including celebrating their dead as well as their pineapples. But this is a Christmas blog. In Oaxaco, Mexico, traditional nativity scenes come with a nutritious, village-fête twist. On December 23rd, the people of Oaxaco come together to create scenes of Mary, Joseph and Jesus et al., from radishes. As in the tiny salad vegetable. First introduced to Mexico by the Spanish in the 18th century, the special little veggies found pride of place in nativity scenes in 1897 when the Mayor of Oaxaco, Francisco Vasconcelos, began a competition to pick the best veggie nativity.

Some honourable mentions that you’ve probably heard before:

So there you have it. Five unique Christmas traditions to inspire your own annual leave. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanzaa, Saturnalia, or just not being at work for a few days, we hope you have a lovely time. Create your own weird traditions.

Happy Christmas from DeadHappy x


Carved Halloween pumpkin

6 fun and spooky Halloween traditions

Why toffee with apple, and other Halloween traditions explained

Oh, sweet Halloween. We’ve been waiting to get sexy with you since last October. Netflix has released a new batch of horror films. Halloween candy has become a breakfast staple. We no longer have to explain why we’re wearing a vampire cape while shopping for loo roll. Oh yeah baby, come and rattle my bones.

But not everyone’s a Halloween fan. In an unscientific survey of the first 10 people we could find, it seems 70% of the world doesn’t care much for toffee apples. So why does a perfectly pleasant fruit become drenched to inedibility every year?

# Halloween tradition 1

Toffee apples

Fair enough, they’re a dubious joy.. Don’t expect a bounty of toffee flavours like the homemade stuff your Aunt would make. The toffeeness is merely a reference to the boiled sugar, minus the dairy ingredients that...well...make toffee nice. The US doesn’t even use the word ‘toffee’, replaced by the more accurate yet sinister sounding ‘candy’ apple (but only because anything with a reference to candy reminds us of Candyman and needing to sleep in your parents bed for a week.)

Caramel apples

It’s all the fault of one William W Kolb; a real-life Willy Wonka but with a slightly less amusing surname. Frustrated with the progress of his new cinnamon candy potion, he decided to take a break with an apple in hand. Said apple having dropped into said potion, Kolb knew exactly what to do. Some cheap polypropylene wrapping and a cute little ribbon later, the toffee apple was born. Kids loved them. Dentists despaired. Kids won.

Trick or Treat Mick and Tel

To keep socially distanced, you may want to check out Tel's latest invention the Treatmaster 3000

# Halloween tradition 2

Trick or treating

OBack when Halloween was just finding its feet in the UK 2,000 years ago, people would dress themselves in dead (hopefully) animal skin to ward off unwelcome visitors and ease the passage of their loved ones to the mythical land of Samhain.

Later generations liked the dressing up bit, but the whole dealing with the undead was a bit too creepy. So instead young women would go door-to-door doing tricks with yarn, fruit and mirrors.

Impressed fellas would be bagged as husbands, was the plan. It’s hardly the stuff of Derren Brown, and nor does a decent sleight of hand seem the basis for committing to a lifelong relationship…but then we gave history “Married At First Sight”. So glass houses n’ all that.

# Halloween tradition 3

Pumpkin carving

“Away to bed or the Jack-O’-Lantern will have you,” was the inappropriate warning of rural Irish parents to their petrified children. Mr O’Lantern - street name Stingy Jack - was doomed to roam the Earth with only a hollowed turnip to light his way, having come out second best in a bit of a to-do with the Devil. Never wise.

Turnip became pumpkin; and every year since, the little hollowed heads light up while pumpkin baked goods fail to capture the imagination.

Scary halloween pumpkin

The truth behind Stingy Jack is a naturally occurring phenomenon where fluorescent gas is emitted from peat bogs at night. But why let a bit of hard science get in the way of giving your kids mild trauma.

Game of apple bobbing
# Halloween tradition 4

Bobbing apples

Increasingly skeptical that rubbish magic was the way to find true love, the early 1900s saw unmarried ladies go bobbing for apples instead. Once out of the water, the apple would be peeled in one strip (not with their teeth, we presume), thrown over the shoulder, and land in the shape of the letter of the young chap they were destined to wed.

So, immediately we see a few problems with this idea...

# Halloween tradition 5

Nut cracking

October is a mental time for nuts. They’re falling off trees and conking on heads everywhere. And where there’s nuts, there’s a shit game to be played. Like nut cracking. Just sit a couple in an open fire and see which cracks first. Or hisses. Or glows.

By all accounts, Robbie Burns was mad into a night of “The Oracle of The Nuts”, as they called it back then. All sorts of predictions could be made from the winning nut; impending fortune or the arrival of a new lover.

Nut cracking this Halloween

Other times a lone nut would expose a cheating spouse or the presence of a dead relative. Alas the arrival of central heating put an end to fire-induced nut cracking. Our loss.

Halloween the movie

#Halloween tradition 6

Halloweenathon

The movies. All nine of them. And the two they’re going to make. In a dark room, with only a creaking rocking chair, in a cabin, in a deserted wood. By yourself. With no electricity or phone signal. The nearest village is at least five miles away. Beyond a deserted asylum. If you get past the bogland. Where the ravaged skeletons of no-longer definable animals squelch up from their watery graves.

Some traditions are waiting to be made! And if you’re sick of Halloween (the movies), there are other films to keep you shivering through the night. Just check our list of top 5 horror films.

So what have we learned about this deathly festival of Halloween? Well, you can be shit scared of it and hibernate until November rescues you. Or you can take a happier approach. Just like with death itself.


scary movie horror film clown

Top 5 horror films to watch this spooky season

Horror movies to keep you trembling this halloween

There are certain classics we like to reach for during the spooky season. The Shining, IT, Carrie, The Descent… You name the horror film, we’ve probably seen it (no seriously, that’s a dare). But let’s face it horror fan: among those glistening diamonds, there are quite a few ugly rocks. To save you even more heartbreak this halloween (damn you 2020), we’ve put together a list of 5 top horror films to keep you company. Enjoy!

# Horror Film 1: Paranormal

Dark Water

Japan is our go to place for paranormal horror films. The land of cherry blossoms brought us The Grudge, The Ring and the best of them all… Dark Water. Icy calm and eerie with and undercurrent of sadness seems to be just the right recipe for a perfect ghost story.

 

The only downfall? We’re afraid we’re running out of places to stay when we finally visit Japan. Whether we’re talking of comfortable homes adorned with shoji screens or apartment blocks, they’re currently both out of the question.

# Horror film 2: Modern Favourite

The Ritual

If The Blair Witch Project married the Wicker Man (and yes, we’re talking of the original, not the remake), The Ritual would be their baby.

 

All we’ll say is: grief and guilt in the depths of misty Scandinavian woods. Oh, and a peculiar creature some of us might recognise from ‘The Witcher’. But definitely not any bees (sorry to disappoint, Nicholas Cage).

# Horror film 3: Blood and Gore

Train to Busan

Who doesn’t like a good zombie movie? Yes, you’ve probably seen it all before. Cramped quarters? Check. A likeable group of characters? Check. Bloody, bite-y chaos? Check. Will it stop you from you giving it a go? We hope not.  After all it’s a zombie film. And a good one at that.

# Horror film 4: TV SHOW

Haunting of Hill House

Ok, so it’s not a horror film. It’s a Netflix show. And a long one at that. Prepare to dedicate 10 hours of your life to it, but boy is it worth it…! A Halloween binge watch perhaps?

 

Growing up in a haunted house can leave some ghosts lurking at the back of your mind. Both literal and metaphorical. Eventually, you’ll just have to confront them. Just… beware of the bent-neck lady.

# Horror film 5: The Classic

The Crow

This has to be our favourite superhero movie of all time. After being brutally murdered alongside his fiancée the day before their wedding, Eric Draven rises from the grave and assumes the gothic mantle of the Crow, a supernatural avenger.

 

A gothic feel, epic guitar solo and a fantastic final performance by Brandon Lee. What more could you want?

We might not be able to reincarnate you into an epic crow just yet (we’re working on it), but there are other things people can remember you by…

Make a deathwish