Halloween is widely derided as a commercial celebration but All Hallow’s Eve is actually a longstanding pagan traditional holiday that travelled from Ireland and Scotland to the USA and Canada back in the 19th century. With Halloween parties, parades and events now happening all around the world, it’s a chance to dress up, prank strangers and eat sweets – what’s not to love?

Hobnobbing with ghosts, ghouls and goblins

Halloween, short for All Hallow’s Eve, derives from the Celtic pagan celebration of Samhain, which heralded the end of the harvest season and the coming winter in the northern hemisphere. Celtic clans in Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man set aside October 31 to remember the dead, saints and their loved ones before All Saint’s Day or All Hallow’s Day on November 1. During the mass migration from the UK and Ireland in the 19th century, immigrants brought their traditions to the US and Canada, making Halloween into the hauntingly awesome holiday we celebrate today.

Activities associated with Halloween, like trick or treating, carving pumpkins (or turnips – if you’re in the UK), apple bobbing, hayrides and dressing up are all part of the harvest tradition. In the USA, streets in major cities and small towns alike get decked out in fall finery with themed decor greeting dressed-up trick or treaters. All your fave theme parks like Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Knott's Berry Farm in California also get in on the act. It’s such a fun time of the year to visit America and Canada, with a real sense of holiday and pageantry and one of the few days of the year that it’s perfectly acceptable to dress up!

United States

When is it?

31st October 2015
31st October 2016

Tips and tricks

  • The Village Halloween Parade in NYC is one of the biggest events on October 31, with an annual theme and the public can participate too. Make sure you get there early to line up.

  • Get in the spirit - make sure you pack a costume for any last-minute Halloween party invites. Think topical events or classic horror.

  • Salem in Massachusetts is another popular Halloween hotspot, as the site of historic witch trials and the biggest month-long Halloween party in the States.

  • As the most haunted city in the US, New Orleans goes all out for October 31 with ghost tours, street parties (the biggest is on Frenchmen Street) and the Krewe of Boo official Halloween parade with floats and throws – just like Mardi Gras!

  • Several US towns also host a zombie run where you can dash 5 kays in character.

  • Halloween also means pumpkin spice season. While not actually made of pumpkin but using festive spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, make sure you try pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin beer and pumpkin-flavoured everything.

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