Halloween comes from Celtic origin and was later mixed with Christianity marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the autumnal equinox, known as “Samhain” (in the Gaelic language).
Currently this festival is celebrated in the Anglo-Saxon world, but it has been becoming more popular in many more countries.
The Celts believed that the dark season represented the division of the world into the earthly and the afterlife, so it was the right time for souls to return to this world.
The date indicated is the night of October 31 and for Christians it would represent “All Hallows’ Eve”; phonetically, Halloween. It also marked the drop in temperature and the decrease in hours per day of sunlight. The Celts divided the year into two periods; the dark one that belonged to autumn-winter, and the light one that corresponded to spring-summer.
It was William III who changed the date to November 1st so that the pagan practices corresponding to the Celts would be abandoned and give way to the Christians ones, with All Saints’ Day.
These festivities reached America through the United Kingdom, mainly to the United States, becoming a very strong tradition mainly in the 19th century that achieves a global impact by introducing the Jack-o’-lantern and Trick or treat.
It is already a widespread festival throughout the world, but it is still very important for countries like Ireland, which is where it was originated.
How is Halloween lived in Ireland?
- High up on the hills of Ireland, Celtic clans disguised as characters from the forest, lit large bonfires to ward off evil spirits. Over time, these rites became famous and now are major festivals such as those held at the top of Tlachtga, Tara or Ward in County Meath.
- In the city of “Derry-Londonderry” the largest festival in Europe is held, where we will find stages throughout the city such as The City of Bones or The Forest of Shadows in St. Columbus Park, plus the dozens of streets that are filled with inhabitants with costumes of original Samhain characters. If you travel to the Emerald Island for nine days in October, you’ll experience a myriad of activities from musical events, art installations, haunted trails, street theater performances, a harvest market and an elaborate Halloween parade.
- The Puca festival in County Meath recreates a very old rite, where goblins, ghosts and spirits give way to the Puca. It is a wild-looking creature that generates terror and appears at night in rural areas causing destruction in its path. Nowadays, this rite is recreated by the druids whom organize sacred ceremonies.
- Within these ancestral customs, gastronomy cannot be left aside, there will be biscuits, Barmbrack (fruit bread) which, as a tradition, is accompanied by surprises between slices, which can be coins or rings. It is also customary to prepare the Colcanno, a dish made of potato, kale and onion. But the protagonists are the apples, since with them they create monstrous shapes and cakes are baked for the children. It is believed that if, when peeling an apple without cutting the peel from top to the bottom and it falls to the ground, it will show the initial of the beloved, a custom among young people.
- As a more modern activity, the Bram Stoker Festival has begun. It is known that this author of the novel “Dracula” was inspired by the fantastic literature of Ireland, giving rise to the creation of this festival in Dublin. It is a fair with touches of the Victorian era including guided tours of the National Gallery, accompanied by film screenings inspired by the myth of Nosferatu.
How is Halloween celebrated in England?
- Halloween in England is the creepiest night of the year. And one of the most deeply rooted traditions is, without a doubt, the preparing of pumpkin; but there are many more, and this festival has a lot of history and traditions.
- Celtic shamans believed that the boundaries between the world of the living and the world of the dead disappeared on that day, and even that the ghosts of the dead came from the other world to take the living with them. For this reason, the idea of dressing up to go unnoticed among the dead arose, including leaving sweets on the doors of the house so that the dead did not enter.
Not forgetting the torches made with turnips to scare away those souls in pain. Today in England, pumpkins are also the protagonists of this night, decorating houses waiting for children to ring the bells in search of their long-awaited sweets. Possibly, the origin of going door to door claiming “trick or treat”, is from when children went door to door asking for “Soul Cake”. Although more than a cake, it is a round cookie or cake with a marked cross on top. And it is that during this day the food plays an important role.
On Halloween, dishes are eaten to remember potions and spells, which were made in the past; among them, the elixir of the witch that is nothing more than, cranberry juice, carrots, grapes and orange; cookie skeletons and sponge cake or pumpkin bread, are also the favorite sweets.
- Tulley´s Shocktober Fest in Kent. This festival has been celebrated for 20 years, its beginnings consisted of the contest of emptying pumpkins in a farm from the area. Now the festival has grown and you will also be able to have more horror experiences such as traveling in a Haunted Hayried Wagon, visiting the spooky country house “Creepy Cottage”, meeting the slaves “The Hellements”, entering the “Circus of Horrors.” There are also musical shows, theater performances, fireworks, etc.
- Hogwarts After Dark. Warner Bros Studio in Leavesden. Here you can dine in “Hogwarts Great Hall” with magical creatures, floating pumpkins and dementors all around you. At the end of dinner, you can explore the settings of the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone movie, such as the Gryffindor room and Weasly’s kitchen. In the Forbidden Forest together with the tension of the moment you can taste a dessert and culminate in Diagon Alley.
While in Scotland.
- Haunted Halloween Tour in Edimburgo. Taking advantage of the antiquity of the city, there is a guided tour that is only offered on these Halloween dates. You will be transported back in time and walk through the old town and through the underground arches of Blair Street. All the time only one candle will light you, during this tour you will be accompanied by horror stories that left their mark on these streets.
How is Halloween lived in the United States?
- All cities dress in orange to celebrate the festival. Streets, homes, shops…are covered with pumpkins, ghosts and cobwebs to receive the most terrifying night of the year.
- Pumpkins are not missing in any house. Symbol of Halloween, the Jack O’Lantern consists of a pumpkin with a carved face that is illuminated by a candle; this tradition was brought by the Irish and the legend of Jack, an evil man who when he died was not accepted in heaven nor hell, so he wanders the world looking for an entrance to these places helped by a cabbage and a candle, the cabbage was changed for the pumpkin, more common in the US, and became popular, becoming the emblem of this festival.
- Louisville Jack-o’-lanter Spectacular. In Kentucky, in this festival they manage to gather thousands of pumpkins that together illuminate more than 400 m of the promenade through the Iroquois Park in Louisville.
- Trick or Treat, the trick or treat in which children go from house to house asking for sweets, a tradition that is related to the persecution of Catholics by Protestants in England, after an attempted attack on the Protestant King James I; Protestant men of the time created a mock celebration in which they went to the houses of Catholics covered with masks to demand beer and cakes, this idea was transformed and carried over to Halloween.
- Halloween coincides with the annual apple harvest, so at this time various dishes are made based on this fruit. One of the typical foods of this festivity are caramelized apples. To prepare this dish, the apples are bathed in syrup, you can also add candies or nuts. Another of the foods that cannot be missed on this date is pumpkin pie. Preparing different Halloween-themed dishes is also very typical, for example, cookies in the shape of ghosts or bats.
- Fantasy Fest in Key West, Florida. Every year a Halloween party is organized as something out of the history books. Its 10 days of carnival-style celebration for adults that also includes more than 60 events ranging from street fairs to costume parades, dances and the incredible “Fantasy Fest Parade”.
- Festival of the Dead, in Salem, Massachusetts. This place is famous for the 17th century witch trial from which 19 people were executed. Mecca of the macabre, a paranormal fair is organized where you can read the future or buy witchcraft products. Within the event, there is an annual dinner with the dead and the celebrations close with the Halloween witch dance.
- The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade. In New York. This is the largest festival in the world, with a capacity to attract more than 2 million visitors. The best thing is that it is free with the only condition that your costume must not be missing. It has a VIP area that, for 25 dollars of value, guarantees you access to a party with a DJ.
- Universal Studio Halloween Horror Night. In Los Angeles, every October the theme park turns into a scary party. In it you will enter the scenes of Stranger Things, The Purge, Poltergeist, The Walking Dead, Halloween 4 and, Trick and Treat.
How is Halloween lived in Canada?
- Toronto After Dark Film Festival. In Toronto. If what’s yours is the seventh art, this festival is for you. Fully cinematic, new horror, sci-fi and cult films from around the world are screened. You will be able to be in contact with the creators and participate in the Pub After Dark.
How is Halloween lived in Australia?
- Luna Dark in Melbourne. This is the oldest park in Australia and during these October nights, there are theme parties with live music, horror shows and the House of Horrors.
These are the most important festivals of hundreds that are found throughout the world, including the world’s theme parks such as Orlando or Disney, always lavish creativity to welcome you in this celebration.
Got scared? Have you already decided which city you will visit?
To nourish yourself with these customs that, as we have already seen, have a historical background and are full of tradition, make your Halloween different and discover more by visiting these countries.