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10 of the spookiest Halloween traditions around the world

Day of the Dead celebration Mexico

The end of October is officially the most spook-erful time of the year. ‘Tis the season of zombie parades, witchy suppers and haunted castle parties. We’ve searched the globe – from Ireland to Cambodia – for the world’s scariest and coolest Halloween traditions.

These countries really know how to creep it real during the spooky szn…

1. Go to a colourful cemetery party in Guatemala

When: 1 November

This 3,000-year-old tradition was born when indigenous people considered colourful kites as a way to communicate with dead relatives. Every year, the residents of Sumpango and Santiago Sacatepéquez gather at the main cemetery with their flowing giant kites. The sights are enough to give you awe-inspiring shivers.

Spook factor: 6/10

2. Tuck into a Dumb Supper in Salem, USA

When: 27 October – 1 November 

These silent suppers are held during the Pagan festival of Samhain – when the veil between our world and the spirit world is apparently most fragile. Diners sit in a circle and at the end of the meal, burn notes to their deceased loved ones in the candle flames. From the moment you enter the room, no one speaks so all there is to do is eat, drink and be scary.

Spook factor: 8/10

3. Feast with ghosts in China

When: 15th night of the 7th Chinese month (around September)

Teng Chieh (or the Feast of the Hungry Ghosts) involves lighting bonfires and lanterns and giving food offerings to guide dead relatives returning to the world for one night. 

Spook factor: 7/10

4. Join the Halloween Parade in Tokyo, Japan

When: 27 October

Dressing up in Japan is serious business and the Kawasaki Halloween Parade is famous for its outrageous costumes – from zombie queens to creepy teddy bears. Ain’t no basic witches here. 

Spook factor: 5/10

5. Visit a real-life haunted mansion in San Francisco, USA

When: Last two weekends in October

America is one of the most haunted countries in the world, so it makes sense that every Halloween locals transform one of San Fran’s oldest houses into Mayhem Mansion. The terrifying event is led by a benevelovent host and visitors’ screams can often be heard around the neighbourhood.

Spook factor: 9/10

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6. Party with Dracula in Romania

When: 31 October

Bran Castle (aka Dracula’s castle) in Transylvania is a Gothic-style fortress dating back to 1377. On Halloween, the castle opens its doors for an epic party. Think horror movies, local (blood-)red wine and dancing in the grounds until 4am. #SquadGhouls.

Spook factor: 8/10

7. Celebrate Day of the Dead in Mexico

When: 1-2 November

When it comes to spooky rituals, Mexico are absolutely killing it. Dia de los Muertos unfolds over two days and honours deceased family members. Familes paint their faces as colourful skulls, hold parades, sing and dance – all to celebrate their love for lost loved ones.

Spook factor: 4/10

8. Tuck into fortune-telling bread in Ireland

When: October

The Irish were celebrating Halloween long before any of us, and one of their strangest traditions still lives on. ‘Barmbrack’ is the bake that decides your fate – a loaf of bread filled with sultanas, raisins and also string, rings or silver coins. It’s said that whichever slice you pick will bring you wealth, love or – a lifetime alone. 

Spook factor: 3/10

9. Celebrate the living and the dead in Cambodia

When: End of September to mid-October

The Buddhist holiday of Pchum Ben celebrates the dead and the elderly. People share delicious foods like sweet, sticky rice and banana leaves, and visit temples to offer up fresh flowers to pay respects to their dead ancestors – and honour those still alive – pretty ghoul.

Spook factor: 6/10

10. Wreak havoc on Mischief Night in North America

When: 30 October

The night before Halloween, revellers in New England and Detroit take ‘trick or treat’ to a whole new level. Their mischievous missions can range in intensity from stealing local farmer’s fruit to setting cars on fire. In some cities, the practice has become so violent that volunteers set up ‘Angel’s Night’, patrolling the streets to counteract the chaos.

Spook factor: 8/10

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