15 ways Halloween is celebrated around the world

By Sharon McDonnell
October 10, 2017, 3:23:56 PM EDT

Honoring ghosts worldwide!

Dressing up as a ghost, ghoul, fantasy figure or celebrity and kids trick-or-treating is the American idea of Halloween. But its somber roots are in its very name: originally All Hallows’ Eve, it was the night before All Saints’ Day, followed by All Souls Day, both honoring the dead. But Halloween is just one of many festivals to remember the dead worldwide, whose events range from lantern-lighting and partying in cemeteries to buffalo-racing.

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Barriletes Gigantes, Guatemala

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(Photo/Brent Winebrenner/Bella Guatemala Travel)

Flying gigantic kites at cemeteries is how the towns of Sumpango and Santiago Sacatepequez celebrate All Saints Day in Guatemala. The kites are usually round, often 40 or more feet wide, and intensely colorful, painted with flowers, animals, and geometric patterns like the country’s Mayan textiles. The kites are hand-made from paper and cloth with bamboo frames by villagers. It’s believed the higher the kites fly, the closer their messages are to reaching the dead in heaven. The 3,000-year-old Mayan tradition began long before the Spanish brought Catholicism to Guatemala.

Banks of the Foyle Halloween Carnival, Northern Ireland

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(Photo/Banks Of The Foyle Halloween Carnival/Tourism Ireland)

Ireland is where Halloween was born as the Celtic festival of Samhain, when ghosts walked among the living. Traditions abound, like bonfires and eating barmbrack, a fruitcake whose contents can tell your fortune. Find a ring, and you’ll be married within a year; a thimble, and singlehood is in your future; a stick, and lots of travel is in your future (we can help). So it’s fitting Europe’s biggest Halloween costume parade is in Derry (Londonderry) in Northern Ireland, next to County Donegal. Derry’s 400-year-old, 18-foot-high walls are the site of ghastly performances, installations, lights, and music from October 27-30, and a parade of circus and street performers and costumed revelers walk the streets on October 31, topped off by fireworks.

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