Halloween is becoming more and more popular all around the world. No doubt this is, in part, because there’s something fascinating about death and dying. How else can you explain the enduring love of horror movies? Many of us want to know what really happens after we pass through this life!
Not surprisingly, many cultures around the world have created unique ways to honor deceased family and friends, along with traditions designed to keep evil spirits at bay. Some are joyful and colorful festivals, while others are more about… zombies!
Here is our list of where you should celebrate Halloween at least once in your life.
In the USA, Halloween celebrations are widespread. Americans have truly embraced the “trick or treat!” custom of dressing up in a wild assortment of costumes and touring the neighborhood for sweets.
But if there’s one event worth mentioning, it is the Village Halloween Parade in New York City. Stretching nearly a mile in length, it is one of the largest parades in the world, with several million spectators lining the route.
Mexicans honor the deceased from November 1-2, a period called el dia de los muertos, or the Day of the Dead. Despite it’s morbid name, this is a joyful and colorful time of year when tradition calls for celebrating the dead as they visit their families and friends in the living.
Every village and city across the country lives by the rhythm and spectacle of this carnival. Adults and children alike dress in shimmering colors and sport the famous catrinas (skulls) and coffin costumes, and parade through the streets.
Ireland is where it all started.
Halloween’s origins date back to the Middle Ages, when it was a Gaelic pagan holiday known as Samhain, a festival marking the end of the harvest season and the start of winter. Samhain is also associated with death visiting the mortal world.
Of note, at this time of year, the Irish bake Barmbracks – rolls into which are cooked candied fruits… and other small meaningful objects. If you find a pea, you face a year without marriage; a stick announces an unhappy marriage; and a ring a happy one.
Would you take your chances?
During the week of October 31 to November 8, Germans keep to the spirit of All Saints’ Day. Masses are held in memory of deceased saints, and families visit cemeteries to pay respect at the graves of their relatives.
For a true Halloween thrill, however, do not miss the Frankenstein Castle Festival (Halloween Burg Frankenstein) in Darmstadt, near Frankfurt. From October 23 to November 8, you can quake in your boots while 77 zombies lurk around every corner and hunt you in the dark.
In England, Halloween is often called Nutcracker Night, alluding to the ancient tradition of gathering family around a fire to eat nuts and tell stories.
The most significant event is the March of the Zombies in London, during which hundreds of people dress in evil costumes and parade in the streets of the capital. Careful you crazy monsters! With moans and grunts, you are expected to go to the 12 pubs located along the route. The most frightening thing may actually be how much beer gets drunk!
Halloween is not part of Japanese tradition. However, the Japanese honor their dead during the feast of “O-bon” in mid-August, when families return to their homelands to visit the graves of their ancestors. They then ask the spirits to depart.
On the last night of the festival, families light paper lanterns and set them adrift on rivers. This custom symbolizes the return of the ancestors to the spirit world, which is a very peaceful way to recollect loved ones.
A trip to Romania – Dracula’s homeland – is another must for thrill seekers. Bran Castle, the place the original novel identifies as the vampire’s native haunt, is located in the Carpathian Mountains on the former territory of Prince Vlad Tepes, also known as Dracula. Particularly macabre festivities are not uncommon, complete with costume parties, witch hunts, midnight campfires and more.
Known in Hong Kong as Yue Lan Jie for “Hungry Ghosts Festival,” Halloween is the time of year when spirits freely navigate the world for 24 hours. It is a traditional Buddhist and Taoist festival held in Asian countries.
To comfort these ghosts, people burn pictures of fruit or fake bills, while others make fires and provide food and gifts to calm those that have been enraged.