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Halloween supposedly got its start in Ireland, more than 2,000 years ago. November 1 was the Celtic new year, a day which signified the end of summer and harvest season, and the beginning of a long winter. On the day before, October 31, Ireland celebrated Samhain—essentially their Day of the Dead. They believed on the night before the first of November, the spirits of their deceased relatives came back to earth.
Of course, the tradition of Halloween has evolved quite a bit—but the practice of commemorating the dead as the seasons change has stayed constant. Perhaps because Halloween originated abroad, plenty of countries celebrate the Day of the Dead in some capacity—even if it’s not with masks, capes, and candy. Here’s where you can celebrate Halloween around the world this year.
Mexico City, Mexico
Dia de los muertos in Mexico is known as one of the biggest fall spectacles in the world. Celebrated throughout Mexico and Latin America, it’s a time to honor loved ones who have passed—but not in a somber way. The dead are believed to visit on November 2—some families even leave pillows and blankets out for relatives who have passed away. In Mexico City, you’ll find beautifully colored altars around town for the first two days of November, and Mexican marigolds, which are known as flor de muerto. There’s a famed Catrina parade, with most attendees sporting Catrina skeleton face paint or masks. Keep an eye out for calacas (colorful skeletons) lining the parade route.
Celtic customs said that the dead visited around Halloween—so they dressed in costume to evade the evil spirits. Bonfires are traditional for an Irish Halloween, also known as the Samhain festival. Jack-o-lanterns line the streets, and you can see The Sugar Club’s annual performance of Rocky Horror Picture Show in Dublin. While in the Dublin area, visit Malahide castle, north of the city, as it’s said to be one of Ireland’s most haunted buildings.
France is still warming to Halloween as a concept, but the town of Limoges, has been hosting a Halloween parade since 1996 that attracts 30,000 people annually. It’s one of the only cities in France where you’ll find everyone dressed in costumes, and many marching in the parade carry illuminated jack-o-lanterns. November 1, All Saints’ Day, is a national holiday in France, so not only can you celebrate Halloween in Limoges, but you also won’t have to go to work the next day.
Baroque architecture, chilly weather, and Count Dracula looming—what more could you ask for on Halloween? Take a day trip to Dracula’s home—Bran castle—in the medieval town of Brasov. While in Transylvania, you can also visit Dracula’s tomb, which is at a monastery along Lake Snagov. After some time in the haunted old town of Brasov, you can continue your eastern European trek with a stop at Romania’s cultural epicenter, Bucharest.
Bangkok is known for their nightlife, and spending Halloween in this Thai city is unlike an evening you’ve ever experienced. Wild parties are held around the city—check out famed hot spots like Silom Soi 4, which hosts sought-after DJs and outrageous costumes. And it’s not just about the nightlife—local movie theatres will show scary movies (and not just American movies, Thai or Japanese horror flicks). You can also visit the “spirit houses”—they’re tiny buildings where spirits (or phi, in Thai) live—and they’ll be decorated with flowers and other offerings.
The Moto Halloween Party takes place in Cali, Colombia, and it is a sight to see. Motorcyclists don creepy costumes, rev their engines, and ride through the streets of Cali. While the ghost stories of Colombia hail mostly from Bogota, Cali lights up with the motorcycle parade and intricate costumes every Halloween.
New Orleans, Louisiana
The home of the ghost story, a fright night in NOLA promises to be creepy and memorable. Take advantage of the ghost and vampire tours New Orleans is known for—and dine out plenty, while in one of the best food towns in America. Going out on Halloween night, tourists assume Bourbon Street is the only option, but that’s far from the case. Frenchman Street beams with live music and crowds spilling out of eclectic bars in costume. You can even spook up your accommodations with a haunted hotel.
Seoul, South Korea
The South Korean hub closes its streets for Halloween festivities every year. Expats and Koreans dance the night away at various clubs, stopping at booths set up right along the road. Koreans also observe “Chusok” at the end of August/early September (around the same time as the Hungry Ghost festival is celebrated in China and the Obon festival takes place in Japan) to honor their relatives who have passed away.
Prague, Czech Republic
The Day of the Dead in the Czech Republic, called Dušičky, is celebrated by honoring family members and friends who have passed on. On November 2, not only do Czechs visit their buried relatives, but they put a chair around the fireplace for each of their departed loved ones. In Poland and Belgium, some follow suit—and in all three countries, you’ll see flowers, wreaths, and candles surrounding grave sites.