Halloween is one of the world’s oldest holidays and the US leads the way in the celebrations on the 31st October. Each year 65% of Americans decorate their homes for Halloween – a percentage exceeded only by Christmas. In fact, Halloween is now America's second largest commercial holiday. While carving pumpkins, fancy dress parties and trick-or-treating might embody modern-day Halloween festivities, the holiday actually dates back thousands of years and the celebration we know today has evolved through different cultures, religions and traditions. Over 2,000 years ago, the Celts celebrated the end of the harvest season on the 31st October and believed that ghosts of the dead returned to earth to wreak havoc on their crops and possess the living.
Fast forward to 2014 and the spooky holiday is celebrated with ghoulish events galore; parades, parties and tours of haunted houses. The fun starts early in New York with a Halloween pooch parade. Barking mad or not, the annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade (25 October) sees hundreds of canines in increasingly elaborate and conceptual costumes strutting their stuff in a fashion frenzy. The event is the biggest Halloween costume contest for canines in the world and the show never disappoints. Previous furry spectacles include a sleepy Chihuahua dressed as a lobster in an overflowing pot of bubbles, a corgi doubling as a bus stop and a pug dressed as a Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte.
The Big Apple also hosts the iconic Village Halloween Parade which sees over 50,000 revellers parade up Sixth Avenue in some of the City's scariest, most innovative and hilarious costumes. This year’s theme is the Garden of Earthly Delights; just turn up in a suitably scary costume to walk in the parade. You’ll need a good night’s sleep after all the excitement so here are a few hotels in new York in which to rest your weary head post-parade.
A creepily good time can also be had in Washington DC. Described as the largest “roaming costume party” on the East Coast, Nightmare on M Street involves over 30 bars and restaurants in the Gallery Place and Dupont Circle areas. Find your most frightening outfit, join the party and pop in to numerous establishments for spooky food and drink specials along the way.
Meanwhile, families will love Boo at the Zoo, a frightfully fun three-day event with Halloween-themed trails and wild animal encounters. Get your goblins, ghosts and “zooperheros” costumes ready.
Believe it or not, some of the most spook-tacular Halloween events take place outside the major cities. Lower Hudson Valley, the home of Sleepy Hollow, attracts visitors aplenty owing to its breathtaking fall foliage, blazing pumpkins and a certain headless horseman. The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze sees over 5,000 intricately carved pumpkins displayed outside the historic Van Cortlandt Manor. While in the region, you can also visit the former riverside home of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow author Washington Irving; watch a shadow puppet performance of the spooky tale and listen to the masterpiece on a guided walk through the woods.
The frightening fun isn’t all happening stateside however. Halloween is establishing itself as a global autumn celebration. Over in Japan, Tokyo’s Harajuku Omotesando Hello Halloween Pumpkin Parade spans the 700m long zelkova-tree-lined section of Omotesando. Over 1,000 children dress up for the parade and shops offer free okashi (sweets). Meanwhile restaurants in the region offer Halloween-themed menus throughout October.
In Scandinavia, all manner of monsters, ghosts and zombies take to the streets of Stockholm for the All Hallows Eve parade – Shockholm. Enjoy the Shockholm pre-party in the park before joining the walking-dead through the Old Town along the wharf to the Royal Garden.
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