If you think Halloween is a strictly American holiday, you would be wrong. Europeans definitely celebrate Halloween. In fact, if you dig far enough through the annals of pagan history, you would find that Halloween has its roots in the Old World. Between the ancient Roman Feralia, which commemorates the passing of the dead, and the Celtic Samhain, which celebrates the end of the harvest season, it's easy to see how the Halloween we knew today could have moved from Europe to the U.S. with immigrants.
The History of Halloween
Halloween didn't begin to really take form until Pope Gregory III dedicated a chapel to honor all saints on November 1 day, replacing 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.
The festival was further transformed when colonists in the Americas meshed with Native American harvest celebrations that included stories about the dead and mischief-making of all kinds. These celebrations were further cemented as part of the holiday when more and more European immigrants came to the New World, incorporating more European traditions.
Countries That Celebrate Halloween
Although Halloween isn't celebrated as lavishly in Europe as it is in the U.S., many European countries have their own unique way of marking the spookiest of holidays. If you find yourself in Europe on Halloween, you're sure to find plenty of festivals and celebrations that will get you in the spirit.
- In England, you can take a tour of London Dungeon, which will be done up especially freaky for Halloween. If you're more of the party type, London has a Halloween pub crawl across several spooky venues. And if you're still in England on November 5, don't forget Guy Fawkes Day, also known as Bonfire Night.
- In Scotland, Edinburgh has a robust Halloween scene, with guided tours across the city's scary landmarks and all of Scotland. Much like its London counterpart, the Edinburgh Dungeon offers Halloween tours with special events.
- In France, Disneyland Paris goes all out for Halloween every year, so if you're traveling with children, a hotel package could be an interesting family solution. Additionally, the town of Limoges is famous for its Toussaint (the French version of All Saints Day) celebrations. If you fancy some time away from the capital, check out their many events.
- In Italy, you'll find that the locals have gone Halloween crazy in recent years with more restaurants, movie theaters, museums, and other tourist attractions becoming involved in the action.
- Transylvania, a historical region in Romania, is the birthplace of a lot of scary folklore and was home to Vlad the Impaler, the historical figure who inspired Dracula. There's plenty of Halloween activities here at any time of year, and you won't want to miss taking an eerie tour through the country's medieval castles, including Dracula's own former home.