From eerie ghosts and ghouls to wayward witches, spooky traditions are celebrated around the globe in all sorts of ways. Take a tour of the world during the harvest season and see how different countries celebrate the spirits of the dead — that is, if you can handle the horror!
A little bit spooky, sacred, and sure to entertain: Mexico is home to Día de los Muertos or “Day of the Dead.” Celebrated on November 1st, this special celebration is famous for locals dressing up as their deceased ancestors in eclectic costumes. Elaborate face paint plays a prominent role as those made-up as skeletons build private altars, ofrendas, which they use to present gifts — from tequila to sugar skulls — to the dead. Visit a cemetery swathed in candlelight near Mexico City and stroll by gravestones ornamented with various offerings. We promise it’ll be an evening you’re unlikely to forget.
The misty island is said to be where Halloween was first celebrated. No wonder, considering its windswept hills and spooky ambiance. Celebrating the ghostly holiday to this very day, the country is rich with eerie festivities including Europe’s largest Halloween carnival, the Banks of the Foyle. Ring in the harvest with a grand parade and a variety of interactive haunted house experiences. After that, get chilled to the bone with creepy spectacles featuring skeletons, vampires, ghouls, and witches. And if countryside scares aren’t your speed, head to Dublin for ghosts, felons, and phantoms.
3. Hong Kong
Why celebrate the dead for a day when you can do so for an entire month? The Hungry Ghost Festival, also known as the Zhongyuan Festival, is celebrated throughout Hong Kong and China. The festival marks the time of year when the dead are believed to visit the living. Their reason? Food, entertainment, and of course, mischief! To ease the suffering of these spirits, offerings are burnt by the roadside. What’s more, live concerts and opera performances are held every single night. From parades and feasts to handmade crafts, this festival welcomes the dead with fun for the living.
New to the tradition, the United States only started celebrating Halloween in the 19th century. Brought across the Atlantic from Ireland and Scotland, the tradition is enjoyed to this day. Each year on the 31st of October, adults and children dress in costume, carve pumpkins, and go door to door collecting candy. Activities get a little less wholesome once you dive into the rich history of ghosts and ghouls. With no need for a witching hour, New Orleans is spooky year round. Head south for hair-raising history and hear about witches, ghosts, voodoo, and vampires during a tour of New Orleans most haunted properties — places where monsters still have the run of the house.
From beautiful beaches to waterfalls, the Caribbean island of Haiti is full of wonder. However, Haiti’s rich history also has traces of something sinister. Known as the Voodoo equivalent of Mardi Gras, the Day of the Dead, and Halloween all rolled into one incredible ritual, Fet Gede or “Festival of the Ancestors” honors the dead. This festival entails drums, song, and lighting hundreds of candles. Journeying to their ancestors’ burial places, locals celebrate with music and processions while sipping on spicy rum, giving gifts to their deceased loved ones well into the darkness of the night.
Rugged stone churches and dazzling castles dot a spooky landscape of rocky mountains. Welcome to Romania, the ultimate location for Halloween. Celebrated on the eve of Saint Andrews, also known as the Night of the Spirits or Noaptea Strigoilor, the 29th of November is the night when people gather to share a prayer protecting themselves from the wolves that roam the mountains. From werewolves to vampires, the country is also home to the region of Transylvania, the infamous location of Dracula’s Castle. Perched atop a mountainside, this national monument is surrounded by an aura of mystery and legend. Explore its eerie towers and turrets, all the while knowing that this was once the home of the world’s most infamous bloodsucker.