Halloween's global best-kept secrets

Punita Malhotra


In the mysterious Halloween universe, where spooks and pumpkins boogie, there's a treasure trove of lesser-known but totally intriguing traditions to pique your interest. Peep into the quirky realm of four offbeat Halloween adventures that break free from the ordinary.

Día de los Muertos in Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxaca's streets transform as night falls, with hundreds of candles casting an enchanting glow upon colourful altars. Families lovingly place the favourite dishes of their departed on these altars, creating a banquet for souls. A grand parade appears, accompanied by marigold floats, music, and joyful processions, revealing a world where living and departed celebrate together. Donning elaborate attire and skull makeup, locals pay homage to La Catrina, the elegant skeletal figure embodying the spirit of the festivities.

People throw open the doors of their homes, generously welcoming others to join in jubilation. The soul-stirring aroma of "pan de muerto" fills the air. Memories are shared, laughter rings through the air, and the boundary between this world and the subsequent melts. Whimsical sugar skulls, known as "Calaveras de azúcar," become playful reminders that death is not the end of our existence. Día de los Muertos is not just a festival; it's a symphony of traditions and beliefs, a radiant tapestry of fond memories and deep bonds.

Guy Fawkes Night in Lewes, England

In the heart of Lewes, England, the eve of November 5th awakens with an electrifying fervour, the flamboyant Guy Fawkes Night. It's a celebration that whispers of centuries past, a fiery echo honouring the audacious Gunpowder Plot of 1605, which sought to engulf the English Parliament and its sovereign in a blaze.

As twilight embraces the land, the air carries an intoxicating perfume of smouldering wood, a prelude to the grand ignition of bonfires. Effigies, especially that of Guy Fawkes, step into the limelight in a theatrical re-enactment of historical rebellion. The night sky becomes a canvas for a breath taking fireworks extravaganza. Guy Fawkes Night is a spirited fiesta where history, pageantry, and community living unite. 

Pchum Ben in Siem Reap, Cambodia

A whimsical "spirit plate" graces doorways, symbolising ancestral presence, adorned with delectable food offerings fit for a royal banquet in the spirit world. Dressed in luminous whites, families assemble at pagodas, like characters in an enchanted tale, bearing offerings and prayers that dance through the air like incense smoke. The pagodas are ancient sentinels, with weathered stones whispering stories of a bygone era.

Amidst the communal prayers, the distant hum of bustling markets adds a surreal melody to the ambience, a reminder that life's hustle coexists with sacred moments. Pchum Ben whispers secrets of Cambodia's profound spirituality—an occasion for soul-searching, a carnival of communal unity. It's a playful yet profound reminder that life is a grand tapestry woven with threads of connection and an invitation to cherish our place in this extraordinary cosmic quilt.

Obon Festival in Tokyo, Japan

In Tokyo, Japan, the Obon Festival gracefully ushers ancestral spirits back into the earthly realm. The air is filled with the melodious tunes of ancient songs, as the rhythmic dances mirror the heartbeat of generations past. Families prepare altars adorned with the favourite dishes of their loved ones. The mesmerising "Bon Odori" dance, performed during Obon, captures the essence of the festival—a beautiful, circular movement, signifying the unity of family and community. People light candles and place them on floating lanterns, setting them afloat on rivers, creating a breath taking spectacle as the lanterns drift away, symbolising the peaceful journey of the departed spirits.

Amidst the festivities, the city breathes, and the past dances with the present, weaving a seamless tale of love, legacy, and the eternal bond of family. Obon is a waltz through time, a fusion of tradition and spirituality. Soak up the spirit of festivities with a luxurious stay at Mandarin Oriental in Nihonbashi, where design is inspired by Japanese nature and traditions. Think delicate leaf-motif fabrics, paper lanterns and bamboo walls.

ASMALLWORLD Collection Hotels Selected By Our Editor

Become a member to join the conversation!

Become part of the world's leading travel & lifestyle community!