Why yes, they do. In fact, if you dig far enough through the annals of pagan history, it would seem that the whole Halloween thing seems to have its roots in the Old Continent. The results of combining the ancient Roman Feralia, commemorating the passing of the dead, with the Celtic Samhain, it would seem like Halloween as we know it today passed from Europe to the US with Irish immigrants. For a detailed examination of Halloween from the Irish perspective, see: All Hallows' E'en and Halloween - How Samhain took on a New Meaning.
The History of Halloween
Halloween didn't take its present form until All Saints Day was declared by Pope Gregory IV to replace the traditional pagan festival. When the influence of Christianity spread throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, the newer saintly holiday was melded with the well-established Celtic ceremonial rites. During this cultural transition, the night before All Saints Day became All Hallows Eve and, people went door to door begging for food (or "soul cakes") to feed the poor.
To become the Halloween we know today, the festival was further transmuted when new colonies in the Americas meshed with autumnal Native American harvest celebrations which included stories about the dead and mischief-making of all kinds, which as further cemented as tradition when more and more European immigrants came to the new world, bringing with them the last remnants
Halloween Festivities Across Europe
Although Halloween isn't celebrated as lavishly as it is in the US, many European countries have their own unique way of celebrating the spookiest of holidays.
Here are some local festivities you can partake in if you find yourself in Europe on October 31:
- Take a tour of London Dungeon, which is done up special freaky for Halloween. Make sure to book tickets in advance though, as they sell out every year!
- If you're more of the party type, London has a Halloween pub crawl across several spooky venues. Costumes, of course, are optional.
- And don't forget, Guy Fawkes day, also known as Bonfire Night, takes place every November 5th in the UK. If you're still in a macabre mood, you can partake in the many fireworks and bonfire displays happening around town.
- Edinburgh has a robust Halloween scene, with guided tours through the city's scarier landmarks.
- Much like their London counterpart, the Edinburgh Dungeon offers Halloween tours with special events.
- Disneyland Paris goes all out for Halloween every year, so if you're travelling with children, a hotel package could be an interesting family solution.
- The town of Limoges is famous for their Toussaint (the French version of All Saints Day) celebrations. If you fancy some time away from the capital, check out their many events.
- Italy has gone Halloween crazy in recent years. Restaurants, movie theaters, museums, and other tourist attractions have all gotten in on the action. Check your local guides for specific offers.
- The medieval walled city of Corinaldo organizes a massive Halloween festival every year, with many revellers trekking to its picturesque location.
- For the seasoned Halloween fan, you can go all out and visit the birthplace of a lot of scary folklore: Transylvania, home of Vlad the Impaler, aka Dracula. You can take eerie tours through the country's medieval castles, including Dracula's own former home.
Many other European countries have also jumped on the bandwagon, so it now makes sense to plan a trip to some places in Europe to experience a new twist on America's favorite holiday.
See our links below for more on Halloween in Europe.