Like the many other holidays North America celebrates, Halloween comes from a long tradition of ritual brought over by Europeans. The roots of Halloween however, are slightly more complex than most holidays, seeing as how there are numerous accounts of different cultures’ celebration of both the seasonal transition and of those who have passed; events that transcend most geographical borders.
Today, we have a completely secular and commercialized understanding of October 31st. Still, the day does tend to appropriate themes from its Celtic and Pagan origins, and the eerie energy of Samhain, a festival dedicated to summer’s end, continues “to resonate through the celebration of Halloween” (Nicholas Rogers, 2002).
It has become a distinct and ritualized part of popular culture, which relies on the celebration of both the supernatural and the unnatural — from North America, to the UK and Asia. Here’s a look at some of the biggest Halloween celebrations around the world.
7. Halloween on Church in Toronto, Canada
In the Church Wellesley Village, Halloweek is a force to be reckoned with. The prominent Gay Village puts on a bash to remember each year which lasts a week, with its finale being a giant block party on Halloween night. Festivities include Jack-O-Lantern carving contests and fright-themed dinner tours. The much anticipated party fills the streets with imaginatively costumed participants. The crowds are so big, they literally shut down the street!
6. The Curious Carnival of Lost Souls in Derry, Ireland
Mysterious in nature, this curious carnival is characterized by its brevity, appearing and disappearing ever so suddenly, but always making a big splash. It features a number of exciting performances by acrobats and dancing troupes, not to mention the strange creatures and contraptions designed to leave a chill in the air that won’t soon dissipate. The spectacular is just one event of the weekend, which attracts about 50,000 people every year. If you’re visiting and looking for a good time, don’t forget your costume, because in Derry, they are required if you expect to be served at any pubs! Don’t forget to stay for the fireworks.
5. The Fetish and Fantasy Ball in Las Vegas, Nevada
Halloween is not just for kids… Well, perhaps nothing in Vegas is. At the annual Fetish and Fantasy Ball, located in the Hard Rock Hotel, entertainment is key. A fashion show, dancers and even a freak show, will keep you on your toes all night long. Despite the name though, advertisers are sure to mention that the event will not tolerate nudity and lewd behaviour, but feel free to get as creative as you can within those limits. Anything else is fair game. While your in town, check out the Zombie Run as well. 5 k for a good cause, but don’t let the zombies get you!
4. Silom Soi 4 Street Halloween Party in Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok goes big for this holiday, and the biggest party of all happens on Silom Soi 4, the “known-to-be” party street. For halloween, the streets fill up with costumes and fun. The massive party is an especially big deal for the city’s gay community. The bars, the clubs and the restaurants, band together to make this the wildest place to be in Bangkok. The trendy celebration also boasts an exciting costume contest, motivating people to take the dress-up aspect very seriously. The goal? Get people to put on the most outrageous outfits they can come up with. Even if you don’t want to participate in the costume fun, you can definitely spend hours checking them all out.
3. The London Dungeon in London, England
Jack the Ripper, Sweeny Todd and other bloody tales come to life on All Hallows Eve. Since 1976, the Dungeon has prided itself on giving its guests quite the scare. More than just a tour, the guides are sure to keep this an interactive way to experience London’s spooky past as realistically as possible. But don’t worry, it’s all in good fun. Unless, of course, you get hit by the Black Plague… Designed to make you scream, you will be led by actors through 14 slices of scary history, and 3 exciting rides.
2. Project Lazarus Benefit in Louisiana, New Orleans
Street parties abound all year round in New Orleans but come Halloween, Frenchmen St. goes all out. Locals and tourists come together for a night filled with outlandish good times. Always out to play is the LGBT community of the French Quarter, and you can hit up Ground Zero on Bourbon St., as well. Drinking, dancing, galas — what more can you ask for? Charity, of course. All the proceeds of the wild, wild night go to Project Lazarus, a home in the city designed for residents living with AIDS. So after dumping all of that cash into your very necessary elaborate costume, you don’t have to feel bad about reaching into your pocket all night for drinks and other fun activities. A guilt-free Halloween bash for all!
1. Salem Witches’ Halloween Ball in Salem, Massachusetts
Nothing is scarier than history, and Salem’s got a dark one. As everyone knows, Salem has been made famous for the Witch Hunts of the late 1600s, in which a number of people (mainly women) were prosecuted and executed for their accused affiliation with dark magic. These brutal and ruthless witch trials remain a constant in popular culture, especially in the portrayal of witches and the popular imagination of the subject altogether. Despite the devastation the trials caused, like many other dark events of the past, today it has been historicized and morphed into a strange fascination we can (dare I say) have fun with. Salem itself takes full advantage of this, especially on Halloween.
The bash is part of the Festival of the Dead, beloved by Halloween enthusiasts everywhere. The night includes a myriad of spook-tacular events, such as the Psychic Fair and Witch Expo. For the Ball itself, fires are set on hilltops and witches gather to cast their spells and honor the dead. Hundreds of costumed guests attend every year, eager to celebrate the holiday in a way that they only could in Salem.