Halloween is one of the most beloved holidays on the calendar, but it is far from the only spooky celebration in the world. Learn about some international holidays and festivals that have a similar feel to All Hallow’s Eve.
Halloween is a favorite holiday for many, and for good reason—it’s a ton of fun. Between the parties, costumes, and the tradition of “Trick or Treat,” it’s embedded in our culture. But the world is wide, and different countries have their own spooky traditions worth experiencing, many of which actually contributed to our current Halloween traditions. While it might be too late to catch a flight for these four international celebrations, it’s easy to incorporate some of their traditions into your own.
Guy Fawkes Day
On November 5th, England lights bonfires and sets off fireworks in honor of the death of Guy Fawkes, a Catholic traitor who tried to blow up the Parliament building. Since England is primarily Protestant, they don’t celebrate Halloween. Instead they burn effigies of Fawkes and children go door-to-door asking for “a penny for the Guy,” similar to Trick-or-Treat. The celebration of Guy Fawkes Day is not as prevalent today as it was hundreds of years ago, but it remains part of the cultural backdrop of England. Add an international flare to your Halloween celebrations by passing out sparklers to friends (safely!), and light up the night like Londoners.
Samhain is the oldest All Hallow’s Eve tradition and the Pagan celebration from which today’s Halloween festivities are drawn. Samhain is celebrated in Ireland and Scotland, as well as anywhere else where small groups of people keep the old rites—simply research ahead of time for a festival in your area. Samhain is, at the core, a celebration of the harvest. Bonfires are lit as a way of banishing evil, and acts of divination are performed. Samhain is considered a time when the veil between our world and the “Otherworld” is very thin, and spirits or fairies can easily cross between. Dressing up and eating special foods are part of Samhain as well, and it’s easy to see how our current Halloween traditions grew from Samhain traditions. Head to the beach for a Samhain-inspired celebration, and tell spooky stories around a bonfire as the evening moves toward midnight.
Japan does not celebrate a Western-style Halloween, but it does have a celebration meant to commemorate the spirits of ancestors. The Obon Festival takes place in August over three days’ time. To celebrate, candles are lit and set adrift on rivers and seas to light the way for spirits. Altars are erected with offerings of food and small gifts to placate the dead, and homes are cleaned very thoroughly to make them inviting for the spiritual visitors. Lighting tea light candles for lost loved ones makes a festive tribute to this Japanese holiday.
Dia de Los Muertos
Celebrated in Mexico, Latin America, and Spain, All Souls’ Day—which takes place on November 2—is commemorated with a three-day celebration that begins on the evening of October 31. It is believed that the spirits of the beloved dead return to their earthly homes during this time. A lot of the Dia de Los Muertos iconography — especially the beautiful and vivid sugar skulls — has passed into American usage and appreciation. Last year, Mexico City hosted its first-ever Dia de Los Muertos parade, adding a new and colorful dimension of pageantry to the holiday period. Already a wonderful city to visit, Mexico City now rates as one of the best places to experience an international-style Halloween.
Want an inside look at Dia de Los Muertos? Follow Eagle Creek on Instagram starting on October 22nd, when Eagle Creek travel expert, Jessica Dodson, will be taking over the feed with photos and videos from the heart of Mexico City.
Related Links (from the Eagle Creek blog):
Coolest Fall Festivals from Around the World
The World's Spookiest Halloween Getaways
October Travel Destinations: Top New England Getaways