Halloween has been a favourite holiday of many for decades. There are diverse events and parties for which the guests dress up in creepy costumes and drink slime-green and blood-red cocktails.
Those who dare wear a skeleton costume or put on a scream mask, zombie and mummy costumes are always popular choices by people. The most important thing is the spooky-factor. We look forward to Halloween for weeks in advance and plan it in detail. But there’s one thing I keep asking myself – where does this tradition actually come from? And so I went searching for the answer! I can say one thing – the USA has only been marginally involved in this tradition, even if we consider America the birthplace of Halloween today. Today, I’ll show you how Halloween is celebrated and how there are so many different Halloween traditions around the world – you’ll be amazed!
Halloween (derived from All Hallows Eve, the evening prior to All Saints’ Day) is a festivity with a long and fascinating tradition. The Celts were already announcing the coming winter with a celebration, called Samhain (the end of summer) and welcomed one of the four Irish/Celtic seasons. On 31.10, when the darker times of the year began, people prepared for the darkness and the undead who would rise from their graves at night. In order to prevent the undead from intruding into their homes, the living dressed up as the undead. Now they could no longer be distinguished from the undead and were easily accepted and spared by them as one of their own. A simple appeasement tactic with a great effect – the Eve of All Saints’ Day was saved.
Celebrating Halloween in the US
Halloween has been celebrated in the US roughly since 1850. Irish immigrants brought the custom with them from across the ocean and since then the Americans celebrate the defense against the undead giddily and creatively. Various Halloween parties with creative costumes take place a while before 31st October. For a long time now shocking disguises are no longer fashionable, replaced instead by extraordinary and simply weird costumes. The best example is Heidi Klum’s annual Halloween party in Los Angeles. The model comes up with a new costume every year. One year she dressed as a monkey, the other she took Kali, the Hindu goddess of death and destruction, as her inspiration.
Haunted Happenings in Salem
Especially lavish Halloween celebrations take place every year in the American town of Salem, near Boston. Salem boasts the nickname of Witches’ Town – and they know how to use it. And so every year the Haunted Happenings, a kind of a Halloween family festival, take place here. The city became famous for the 1692 Salem witch trials, which had led to cruel interrogations and executions. The city has actually erected a museum and a memorial to commemorate the terrible times of the witch trials and to send a shiver down the visitors’ spine with pictures and stories from the time.
Dia de los Muertos: Halloween in Mexico
Halloween is celebrated even in Mexico, even if it’s completely different to what we’re used to. The Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos is one of Mexico’s most important holidays and is included in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. During the festivities, the dead are not feared but celebrated as a part of life with very colorful and pompous skulls and mini tombs made out of sugar. Namely, the Mexicans believe that their deceased relatives come back on 31.10 and should receive a warm welcome.
Trick or treat?
The famous tradition of ‘trick or treat’ also originated in Ireland. Already hundreds of years ago children and the poor would wander from door to door and sing for the souls of the undead and for small treats of course. Even today children stroll through the streets in their costumes and shout ‘trick or treat!’ to scavenge a handful of sweets. In recent years, more and more children in Europe wander around in spooky costumes and join in with the old Irish custom.
UNICEF came up with a great idea for the occasion. Parents and teachers can prepare donation boxes for the big evening and then instead of sweets and treats, these can be filled with small donations from the neighbors. This way, the children feel that they have done something for other, apart from their sweets bounty.
Halloween in Europe
Since the 1990s the Halloween custom has been spreading through Europe. Even if the parties are not so popular, the gardens are not too lavishly decorated and the number of children who wander the streets dressed in spooky costumes is not as high as in America. For example, some Europeans still dress up to celebrate Halloween on 31.10 every year. Many people also carve scary or funny pumpkins, which are placed in front of the doors. But it’s clear to see: Halloween has arrived in Europe.
A gruesome place, perfect for a Halloween festival can be found in Europe too: Transilvania in Romania! The home of Count Dracula offers the dark history of the famous vampire, alongside eerie hotels and a Halloween party hosted appropriately in a real Gothic castle. That’s what I call a Halloween party!
Halloween in Ireland
As you’ve already found out, the Halloween tradition has its roots in Ireland. Of course, it’s lavishly celebrated here still today. Northern Ireland has made a name for itself since Halloween is celebrated here for four days straight! The festival attracts thousands of tourists to the city every year and a costume is compulsory if you want to be served in the pubs. The festival is topped off by a firework display. A great event for real Halloween fans!
Halloween Horror Fest in Movie Park, Germany
One of the most legendary Halloween parties takes place every year in Germany in the Movie Park Germany in Bottrop. The Halloween Horror Fest celebrates its 16th birthday this year and will be in top form! Thrills are guaranteed in Movie Park but during Halloween, the theme park is not a place for the faint of heart. You can find some great hotels nearby if you decide you want to make a little Halloween trip here.
A similar level of spookiness can be expected from Europapark in Rust, Germany. Great family specials and events await here for the daring visitors.
The name of Frankenstein Castle in Darmstadt, Germany should be on your Halloween program. One of the oldest parties are celebrated inside the walls of this castle and if you don’t believe that it can be exciting, you should get on your way and check it out for yourself. It’s not a surprise that most of the tickets have already been sold. There are stage shows, spooky dinner and a whole load of attractions!
How will you be spending Halloween? Are you excited for the scary times ahead or does the spookiness send chills down your spine?