Halloween is largely a Western tradition, but you can find much to do at this time of year worldwide, including Halloween parties. Before we get to that, let's learn a bit about Halloween...
Halloween means dressing up and throwing parties, spooky revelry and nods to magic. Or does it? It all starts with the ancient Celtic rite of Samhain and links back to All Hallow's Eve (and All Hallows, now more commonly known as the Catholic All Saints Day), a day (and night) steeped in legend and lore. Honoring the dead. Communing with souls who revisit this mortal coil while the veil between worlds is thin.
The whole trick or treat, costume, fun time thing is primarily a Western tradition. Homesick American students *can* find a place to don masks and carve pumpkins internationally, though. Lay aside your quills and gather 'round, and ye shall hear where the finest Halloween festivities are happening. Let's visit the US (Salem and New Orleans!), Bangkok, Limoges (France) and Derry (Ireland) to find the best Halloween parties around the world.
Halloween Parties in Salem and New Orleans
Where did the US get its Halloween traditions? Guy Fawkes Day? All Hallow's Eve? The Celtic New Year? Read about it (and about Samhain, the witch's New Year on October 31), then check out these Halloween parties in the U.S:
Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts
Naturally, the town famed for witch hunting, fear of the evil eye and general sin phobia hosts a Halloween party to die for.
Halloween in New Orleans, Louisiana
Speaking of magic, New Orleans is one mysterious place. Voodoo central. Laissez les bons temps rouler.
- Voodoo Music Festival - A little less international this year than last but no less worthy of worship: Sound Garden, Blink 182, Snoop Dogg, The Raconteurs, Fatboy Slim, and My Chemical Romance are just a few of the terrifyingly good folks on the bill for 2011.
- Voodoo Music Experience Tickets: Buy direct.
- Hit the street, any street, to find Halloween happening all over New Orleans
- See a budget guide to New Orleans
- Halloween in New Orleans has been changing since Hurricane Katrina in 2005...check out NoLa.com for the complete scoop in 2017.
More Notable Halloween Parties in the U.S...
Halloween in Bangkok, Thailand
Silom Soi 4, a street of bars, restaurants and clubs, is the scene for a massive Halloween street party in Bangkok: although Halloween celebrations abound in Bangkok, this one is the queen. The Bangkok gay population comes out in force and revelers from the world over carry on long past the witching hour. Be there or be square, as they say, and wear a costume -- the more outrageous, the better. In Bangkok pre-halloween? Lose the flip flops and ramble over to a Sukhumvit Soi 11 club crawl.
Little help on Thailand backpacker travel in general:
Time to hop into Halloween in Europe with a peek at Transylvania, home of Count Dracula himself...
Halloween in Europe and Eastern Europe
Europe has begun adopting the Western tradition of Halloween party fun but, as Trip Savvy Europe expert, James Martin says, "Be aware that finding European Halloween celebrations on the web is about as hard as finding an honest politician." (Ah - a costume idea!) A few spots are in on the Western fun, like Limoges, France: get a little background with ruminations from Trip Savvy's France Expert Kelby Carr on why Halloween is becoming a happening event in France and see why you may want to make the party in Limoges with 30,000 other revelers:
Eastern Europe doesn't celebrate on Halloween (November 1st, All Saint's Day, is quite an event, though), but it's hard to think of Europe and spooky stuff without recalling the Romanian hometown of Count Dracula, unaffectionately known as "Vlad the Impaler" - check out these Transylvania photos snapped on Halloween and some bio info on Vlad's creepy life:
Halloween in Ireland - Birthplace of US Traditions
Halloween in Ireland? Absolutely!
Halloween trick or treating (though I think it might have been known simply as throwing cabbages at doors) actually originated in Ireland, as did the carving of jack o'lanterns. Turnips were used for carving until the Irish began emigrating to the U.S. where pumpkins were more plentiful. Your question: do they party in Ireland on Halloween? You bet.
One of the biggest Irish Halloween parties is in Derry (Londonderry), where you'll find music, fireworks, and parades -- bring on the Banks of the Foyle Hallowe'en Carnival! This cool walled city has plenty to offer besides Irish Halloween traditions like Colcannon (Irish Halloween dinner of boiled potatoes, kale and raw onions) and hearty ale - though there is a lot behind the old saying, eat, drink and be merry). More on Derry:
Halloween Around the World for Homesick Travelers
Homesick American student travelers are most likely to find Halloween parties in Americanized areas of the destination or in hostels, where other backpackers, inquisitive by nature, may be willing to learn about Western traditions. Keep in mind that your fellow travelers may also jeer at the "Americanization" of the planet, the consumerist nature of trick or treating, or take offense at a perceived overly casual attitude toward what is often considered a time meant for honoring the dead, not dressing up like a corpse.
Halloween Celebration Tips
- If you're traveling outside of the U.S. over Halloween, do take the time to research what could be going on in your destination on October 31st and November 1st (a cool part of travel is learning to be considerate of others' beliefs -- with a little knowledge, you won't assume that what you do in the U.S. is remotely similar to what others do elsewhere on October 31).
- If you're planning to throw back some witch's brew of the spiked variety, ensure that you know what the legal drinking age is in the country which you are visiting, as it could impact the experience you have.
- Online Halloween costume shops include: Hollywood's Halloween Town, New York City's Gothic Renaisance, New Orleans' shop locations, and U.S.-wide Extreme Halloween.
This article has been edited and updated by Lauren Juliff.