Halloween has become one of the most celebrated days around the world. Nowadays it is all about costumes, lollies and scaring people, but it wasn’t always that way.
Halloween evolved from the 2000 year old Celtic tradition, Samhain; a day which marked the end of harvest season and beginning of winter. Celebrated on the 31st October, Druids would light sacred bonfires to ward off spirits which could supposedly cross the veil during this time, and Celts wore costumes, consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to predict their fortunes.
On the 13th May 609 CE, Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon to Christian martyrs and established the All Martyrs Day feast in the Western Church. Later, the 1st November was designated as All Saints’ Day or All-hallows by Pope Gregory III to honour saints and martyrs. This day included some of the traditions from the Samhain celebration. The night before was dubbed All Hallows’ Eve, now known as Halloween.
Modern Halloween Traditions
Dressing up in your funniest, cutest, scariest an all around best costumes has been a Halloween must do for a long time now, but when did this start? It has been determined that dressing up has a European and Celtic background. During All Hallows Eve it was believed that ghosts could cross the veil and walk among the living. In order to confuse the spirits and keep themselves safe, people would wear masks to avoid being recognised, as well as leave bowls of food outside their homes to appease these spirits and keep them from entering people’s homes.
Carving pumpkins with horrific, funny and intricate faces, lighting them with candles, and decorating your house or public places with them has become a traditional part of the United States Halloween celebrations. But where did it come from? The name comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack. Which should give you a hint that the practice itself came from Ireland as well. Large turnips and potatoes were once used to carve, and when Irish immigrants headed to America, they brought the tradition of vegetable carving with them.
Trick or Treating
Trick or treating is said to have come from early All Souls’ Day (2nd November) parades in England. All Souls’ Day was declared by the church c.1000 CE as a day to honour the dead. During the celebrations poor people would beg for food and in return promised to pray for the giving family’s dead relatives. This was called “going a-souling” as the food handed out were pastries known as soul cakes. This tradition replaced the practice of leaving food for spirits. Later, this was again replaced by children visiting houses in their neighbourhood to receive ale, food and money.
Chilling Celebrations Around the World
If you find yourself at one of these locations during Halloween, make sure you do not have any preexisting heart conditions…
In the heart of the Australian outback is over 200000 sq km of desert. It is here that there was said to be a close encounter with a UFO shaped like a fried egg. One early morning in 1988 the Knowles family were allegedly chased down by a UFO. A truck driver who stopped at the same town as the family confirmed this story.
Getting there: leave by car from Adelaide, Melbourne or Perth. Alternatively you could take the Indian Pacific Train from the Great Southern Rail network. There are also a bunch of tours available at The Nullarbor Traveller.
The site of Ancient Maya ruins in Belize, Xunantunich (or Stone Woman) is the supposed sight of a female ghost dressed in white with red eyes. Sightings of this ghost began during the late 19th C CE.
Getting there: it is necessary for you to book a tour to explore these ruins as conservation is a high priority.
Bytown Museum, Ottawa
Considered one of the most actively paranormal places in Canada, the Bytown Museum is a must see this Halloween. Visitors to the doll exhibit have heard children crying and see doll wink, and move on their own.
Getting there: the Bytown Museum is accessible via foot, bike and bus.
This week-long festival takes place in Toronto’s largest gay neighbourhood, the Church-Wellesley Village, and involves many events throughout the week. The Block Party is the best of all, taking place on Halloween night, the streets are closed off for Toronto’s biggest Halloween celebration.
Celebrating Halloween at one of the world’s Disneylands in France, Japan or the USA is an experience your children would not forget. From parades and fireworks to entertaining guests with spooky Halloween themed events, any of these great parks would contribute to a fun and scary Halloween night.
Highgate Cemetery, London
Supposedly one of the most haunted places in London, the Highgate Cemetery is home to the graves of German philosopher Karl Marx, Victorian novelist George Eliot, and author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams.
Getting there: Take the Northern Line on the tube to the Archway stop and exit towards Highgate Hill. Take the bus (210, 143, 271), two stops, to Waterlow Park. A short five-minute walk through Waterlow Park and you will find yourself there.
Since 1976 the London Dungeon has been the go to place to experience an interactive and elaborate historical journey through London’s horrific past.
Getting there: the London Dungeon is accessible on foot, by car, bus, tube and train.
The scene of the Jack the Ripper murders (1888-1891), which caused widespread terror in the community, and now a popular spot for Halloween celebrations. Take a tour around the sites that Jack the Ripper’s victims were found.
Catacombs of Paris
During the 18th C CE the bones of 6 million Parisians were dug up and relocated in tunnels under the city of Paris to make more room in graveyards. Some of these tunnels are now open to the public.
Getting there: it is wise to take a guided tour through these tunnels as many people have become lost (and then died), or been arrested for unlawful entry. If you do not want to book a tour, the metro has a stop right next to the entrance to the Catacombs at Denfert-Rochereau, which is on line 6.
If you would like to experience the traditional Celtic Samhain festival than you should check out the Fête des Sorcières (Witch Festival). Running for the last 100 years, the main event includes and all night long Celtic dance.
The largest and oldest Halloween celebration in France is held at Limoges. Tens of thousands of people show up for the many events and Halloween parade.
Banks of the Foyle Hallowe’en Carnival
The largest Halloween celebrations in Europe take place at Derry/Londonderry every October. With a huge range of events taking place you are sure to be entertained, and spooked!
If paranormal activity is something that gets you going then you should visit Leap Castle, Ireland, built c.1250 CE. According to legend the many battles and much bloodshed that this castle has seen has caused some unhappy spirits to roam the halls.
Getting there: visits via appointment only. Call Sean Ryan on 0353868690547 or preferably email firstname.lastname@example.org
Isla de las Munecas
Also known as the Island of the Dolls, Isla de las Munecas is located 28km south of Mexico City, Mexico. The island is known for the hundreds of whole and decapitated dolls that cover it. It is said that the caretaker, Julian Santana Barrera, hung the dolls to appease the spirit of a girl he had found, dead.
Getting there: take a ferry from Embarcadero Cuemanco or from Embarcadero Fernando Celada. Major boats do not stop at the Isla de las Munecas so you will need to ask specifically for a boat that will stop there. Prices are based on an hourly rate.
Just over 25km southwest of Brasov, perched on a 200ft high rock with imposing towers and turrets, narrow winding staircases, underground passages, extravagant rooms, and collections of furniture, weapons and armor that date from the 14th C CE, Bran Castle is known as the home of the fictional and terrifying Count Dracula.
Getting there: there are trains to Brasov and buses from there to Bran Castle. It is also accessible by car.
Mary King’s Close
Underneath the Royal Mile lies the remains of Mary King’s Close, a 400 year old marketplace. It is rumoured that victims of the Black Plague were quarantined here and left to die.
Getting here: you can book a tour with The Real Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh.
Underneath the South Bridge of Edinburgh lies the The Vaults; a series of chambers that were used for business and illegal activities.
Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant
Chernobyl is famous for the catastrophic meltdown in April 1986 when reactor number 4 exploded. 31 deaths, a mass evacuation, and a 30km exclusion zone around the plant was the result of this disaster. This led to Chernobyl becoming a ghost town.
Getting there: available to visit through guided tours leaving from Kiev.
Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp
Cassadaga, known for its many psychic mediums, opens its doors to visitors for Halloween. You can get a reading from one of the locals or take a tour through the 115 year old town.
Knott’s Scary Farm, Buena Park
Knott’s Berry Farm theme park is transformed into 160 acres of horror every year with 1000+ monsters, 13 mazes and 4 scare zones. The scariest of all the mazes only allow 6 people in at a time, and there is no escape.
Vampire Balls, the Voodoo Experience, Boo at the Zoo and a massive street party on Frenchman Street are a few of the things New Orleans has to offer on Halloween.
Known for the infamous Salem Witch Trials, Salem becomes the centre of Halloween celebrations for the entire month of October. You can enjoy the Salem Witches’ Halloween Ball, the Psychic Fair and Witchcraft Expo, the Vampires Masquerade Ball, and the Salem Haunted Happenings.
Getting there: located north of Boston, Salem is easily accessible via car, bus and train.
The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbour, Long Beach
Open for a month leading up to Halloween, The Dark Harbour exhibition aboard the cruiseliner Queen Mary is one of the best Halloween experiences in the world. 6 mazes, 200+ ghosts and monsters, live entertainment and music makes up one of the spookiest shows at Halloween.
The Stanley Hotel, Colorado
The Stanley Hotel is known to be the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining. This hotel in particular has a long history of hauntings, and as such you can take historical and ghost tours through the hotel. It is possible to stay at the hotel as well.
Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights, Hollywood
Universal Studios becomes a world of horror every October for the Halloween Horror Nights. 2014 is More Dead Than Ever.
Village Halloween Parade, New York City
50000 people enjoy the three-hour festival madness at Sixth Avenue (Avenue of the Americas), Greenwich Village. As long as you are in costume, you are welcome to join the festivities. Gather at Spring Street and Sixth Avenue at noon. The official parade begins at 6pm.
Featured Image: Wikipedia