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Halloween around the World: Culture and Customs

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A truly global phenomenon, the varying customs of Halloween around the world offer a unique insight into the cultures that celebrate it. However, way before the arrival of pumpkin-shaped earrings and spider-web spray, Halloween began as a Celtic festival known as Samhain. This simple pagan celebration marked the start of preparations for winter after harvest, and was thought to be an auspicious time to commune with the dead.

The theory goes that because All Saints day and Samhain fell at the same time, the two influenced one another and blended into one. For instance, the western tradition of trick or treating is believed to be a direct descendant of ‘souling’ and ‘guising’ - where British and Irish poor would go door-to-door asking for food in return for prayers for the souls of the dead. The word Halloween is a contraction of the term ‘All Hallows Eve’, which precedes ‘All Hallows Day’.

So, in honour of this ghoulish festival, here is TravelLocal's round-up of Halloween celebrations around the world...

Colombia

If you like your Halloween parade with a petrol-head twist, head to the annual Moto Halloween event in Cali, Colombia, where the participants dress up as witches, zombies, ghosts and ghouls before mounting their motorbikes and cruising the city in Halloween style.

China

The Chinese version of Halloween is known as Teng Chieh, where festivities focus on departed loved ones. Food and water are placed in front of pictures of the deceased, as it is believed that their spirits return to visit those they left behind. Bonfires and lanterns light the way for these returning spirits.

Dia de los MuertosLatin America

El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is huge in Latin America. The absorption of ancient Aztec rituals into the colonisers’ Catholic celebrations has created a kind of ghoulish megafest, incorporating the most vibrant and exciting customs from both cultures. Tradition states that, at this time, the spirit world overlaps with the living world and the deceased can revisit their living families.To honour these lost souls, an exhilarating three day festival takes place throughout most of Latin America - with the most spectacular held in Mexico and Guatemala. Incredible festivals and parades of marigolds, skulls, skeletons, food and prayers all come together to make the Día de los Muertos celebrations some of the most memorable on the globe.

Hong Kong

As one of the most westernised corners of Asia, Hong Kong has a long history of celebrating Halloween, and although some of the more rustic traditions - jack-o-lanterns and trick or treating - haven’t really caught on in this city of high rises, it's a great place for an upmarket fancy dress party. One of the most famous places to strut your spooky stuff in your elaborate Halloween costume is at the Lan Kwai Fong street party, where the whole area is decorated in exuberant fright-night style, with a makeup service for those who want that professional sheen.

The Philippines

Many Filipinos travel back to their home region for the Halloween period, one of the biggest events of the year for this majority Roman Catholic country. Preparations begin in advance by cleaning up cemeteries, spring cleaning the home and gathering all the celebration essentials: candles, flowers and food. The graveside reunions on the 1st and 2nd days of November have a decidedly upbeat atmosphere, as families assemble to celebrate the lives of the deceased, equipped with tables and chairs, picnics, card games and music. This event to commemorate those passed becomes a celebration for all the family.

Make it happen

Around the world, Halloween is a vibrant and exciting cultural event. Our knowledgeable local experts can arrange bespoke itineraries to include these celebrations - and many more like them! Click the name of a country above to find out more. To speak with someone in the TravelLocal office, call +44 (0)117 325 7898.

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