I think using a specific holiday (Easter, Halloween, etc) as a launch pad to planning a trip is a creative way to experience and see things you would not normally have access to. I also think it puts the culture aspect of travel upfront and center because in many cases holidays can be a defining aspect of your destinations culture. It helps you experience that country in a way you normally wouldn’t be able to at other times of the year.
If you weren’t already aware Halloween is one of the oldest holidays. Its origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (sow in). The Celts, who lived mostly in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1.
This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. Although it stems from religious beliefs, it is still celebrated today by many people of different religious backgrounds.
If you are someone who loves Halloween and traveling you are in for a treat today. I have decided to take us on a quick trip around the world so we can learn how other countries celebrate Halloween. So, if you ever want to take a trip to celebrate Halloween elsewhere here are some countries to consider.
In Mexico Halloween is more of a multiday affair. It’s a time to remember your loved ones who have passed on. Our commercialized Halloween doesn’t hold a candle to El Dia de Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, which is believed to take place on November 2. It is commemorated with a three-day celebration that begins on the evening of October 31. Dia de los Muertos is a defining aspect of Mexican culture and a joyous holiday.
This celebration is designed to honor the dead who, it is believed, return to their earthly homes during these days. Customs vary across the country, but core traditions remain the same wherever you go. Mexicans visit cemeteries, decorate the graves and spend time there, in the presence of their deceased friends and family members. They also make elaborately decorated altars (called ofrendas) in their homes to welcome the spirits.
If you are fortunate to visit Mexico during this time you will find participants will often paint their faces to resemble skulls or create skeleton costumes or dead versions of Mexican historical or cultural figures. In some cities, like Mexico City, there are massive parades. One of the most famous celebrations takes place on a small island names Janitzio in Lake Patzcuaro in the state of Michoacan. Thousands of visitors gather at the local cemetery to watch the Purepecha indigenous people perform Dia De Los Muerto rituals. There are also processions with music and folk dances and you will also get to see the local fisherman illuminate the lake with torches.
If you want to visit Ireland for this spooky holiday you will be in for some particularly unique foods and ancient traditions.
Many countries have their own culinary traditions and recipes for holidays and Ireland is no different. As part of tradition, Colcannon (mashed potatoes mixed with Kale or cabbage) and barmbrack (sweet bread with dried fruits) are served. Coins are said to be wrapped in paper and then put into the potatoes for the children to find. Perhaps, the Irish version of trick or treat!! For fortune-telling purposes, charms (coin, a ring or a piece of rag) are added to the Barmbrack. The charm piece you receive in your piece of barmbrack indicates your fortune for the next year. If you get the rag then your financial future is not great, the coin means prosperity and the ring is of course romance in the offing.
In Ireland you will also find lots of bonfires. Bonfires have always been part of the Samhain celebration and it's not uncommon to find many around the country on October 31st, as they're all lit for a reason. Legend says that bonfires could ward off bad fortune as well as evil spirits and they also served as a form of protection as well as metaphorical future insurance for good fortune. It was also believed that bonfires encouraged dreams, and the embers would often be scattered in the fields of farmers in order to ward off bad luck in the face of the following year.
Visit Ireland during this holiday and you will be in for a treat. In Dublin you can attend a family friendly event that begins with an overview of the origins of Halloween including the games often played on this holiday. For instance, he Celts were obsessed with finding out the identity of their future spouses and many games are centered around this including apple snap and bobbing for apples. In Galway over 70,000 people line the stress every year to witness a parade full of magic. You will experience giant creations, sculptural images, pyrotechnics, custom made costumes and performances bringing that years chosen theme to life.
Forget the trick-or-treating, in Japan Halloween is for the adults. It’s all about cosplay and partying. Some people argue that the concept of trick or treating wouldn't work in Japan because Japanese people don't like bothering other people, especially not strangers. Therefore Halloween in Japan is mostly for the grown ups and it's all about partying and dressing up!
If you’re wondering where to celebrate Halloween in Japan, the street parties are a great place to start. They take place throughout Japan in popular spots such as squares and parks. There’s a huge annual Halloween parade at Roppongi Hills which always turns into a huge street party. Another one of the best parties is in Shibuya (Tokyo) where the Scramble Crossing and Center Gai are closed off from traffic and the partying goes on until the early hours!
Add to this the most prestigious event of the day, the Kawasaki Halloween Parade and you are in for a treat. It features around 4,000 costumed participants and over 120,000 spectators. Participants must apply at least two months in advance and pay a 1,000 Japanese Yen fee. Talk about a party!!!
In Romania Halloween is a fairly recent tradition transplanted from the USA. The home of the fictitious Dracula celebrates Halloween with a dance party on All Hallows Eve. As such it would only be right that Bran Castle, is one of the several castles associated with the Halloween festivities. In addition to music the castle organized Vlad Tepes guided tours from dusk until midnight and entertainment includes traditional Romanian folklore dances, the presence of Count Dracula, ghosts and vampires. You can also watch horror movies and animation. The festivities are not just for adults though. Children can attend and at the end of the evening awards are given to those with the best costumes. Requests to attend the party starts as early as January from all around the world.
This is just a small sampling of some of countries that celebrate Halloween. There are actually many more. If you are ever seeking to pull together a Halloween inspired trip I would be thrilled to help. You can always contact me here to get started.