As Halloween gets closer it dawns on me that many people do not know where the holiday comes from and where many of its traditions began. Halloween started as Samhain, a pagan holiday celebrating the ending of fall or the harvest, it was also considered when departed souls could revisit earth. When the Catholic Church took over Ireland it incorporated Samhain and turned it into All Hallows Eve (the day before All Saints Day), eventually becoming Halloween. Many traditions of modern day Halloween come from the Pagan version of the holiday and the transition over to a Christian holiday.
Now that you know a bit of history about Irelands involvement in Halloween’s origins you can understand why the biggest Halloween party is located in Derry, Ireland. Derry is in Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and is the top destination for Halloween celebrations. “Out of this World in the City of Bones” is a three day festival with parades, parties, fireworks, costumes, spooks and scares. The festival includes haunted houses, ghost walks, an apple fair, Monster Halloween Fun Fair, and parties until the wee hours of the morning. The festival is kicked off the “Awakening of the Walls,” which involves light, fire, sculpture, music and performances along the city’s walls. For more information about the festival itself check out this year’s schedule: http://www.derrystrabane.com/Subsites/halloween/Home .
While in Derry, grab a bite to eat at The Sooty Olive, especially the sea bream with potatoes and black pudding. The beef brisket at Legenderry Warehouse No. 1 is also a must. For a pint and a steak visit Walled City Brewery. For a more traditional Irish pub you might like Peadar O’Donnell’s which has a vintage feel and an excellent whiskey collection.
Either before the festival or after venture beyond Derry’s walls and get to know the beauty that is Northern Ireland. You could take a trip down the Causeway Coastal Route and visit the Giant’s Causeway (an UNESCO Site), Bushmills Distillery (the oldest one on the island), and the Gobblins (Victorian cliff walk). You can also take in some city life in Belfast, with its vast history including the Titanic Experience. Also near Derry is the Inishowen Peninsula which consists of coastal cliffs, beaches, and phenomenal seafood. You can also take a Game of Thrones tour and visit the Kingsroad, Winterfell, and the Iron Islands.
Northern Ireland is a fantastic place to visit any time of year, but if you are a fan of Halloween you should definitely go over the holiday and take in everything Ireland and Derry has to offer.
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