Hex in the city: which terrifying town hits Halloween hardest?

Derry boasts a four-day festival, while in West Hollywood 500,000 revellers take part in a huge LGBT event but which city goes the furthest to spook its citizens?

On a dark, dark night, in a dark, dark town, on a dark, dark street, skeletons, witches and zombies gather. Theres even the odd devil or two. The legions of the dead have come together for an annual Halloween night parade that will be watched by thousands of costumed revellers. But this isnt the US a country most people consider to be the Halloween mothership this is Derry, Northern Ireland.

The Derry Halloween festival started small in the mid-80s as a fancy dress disco in a pub. Now it has snowballed into a massive four-day event, with more than 120,000 people attending in 2018 double the number from 2016. On Halloween night itself, there were 45,000 people watching the parade and fireworks. The sheer size of the extravaganza hasnt gone unnoticed across the pond either, with USA Today crowning it the worlds best Halloween destination in 2015. So is it safe to say Derry is the capital of Halloween? Or are there other cities that go even further?

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Derry

While 23% of revellers attending the Derry festival are travelling there from outside Northern Ireland, organisers claim its growth in popularity has more to do with local enthusiasm than clever marketing. Aeidin McCarter, head of culture at Derry City and Strabane district council calls it the festival of the people. It attracts people of all ages and everybody dresses up. You look strange if you dont, she says.

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In most other organised festivals, you are bringing something to the people, but this is the people bringing something to the world, McCarter says. Halloween is to Derry what carnival is to Rio or what new year is to Edinburgh. Instead of Christmas stuff, supermarket aisles are full of Halloween merchandise. There are pop-up shops that have been open for the last three weeks selling purely Halloween things. People plan their costumes at least a year in advance. Even local people who have left the city come back. In the same way that people come back for Christmas, people from Derry come back for Halloween.

Greenwich

  • Revellers at a Halloween parade in Greenwich Village, New York City

Irelands connection with All Hallows Eve dates back millennia to the Celtic festival of Samhain when spirits were believed to walk the Earth before the new year began on 1 November. It is thought the ancient tradition was first introduced to the US by Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine of the mid-19th century.

Undoubtedly, Americans have turned what was once a religious rite into a secular spectacular. A terrifying 68% of people will celebrate Halloween, with the average household in the US spending $86.27 (67) on the festival, adding up to a whopping nationwide total spend of $8.8bn. Thats a lot of treats. Speaking of which, its estimated that more than 41 million children aged five to 14 will go trick or treating in 2019 and $2.1bn will be spent buying sweets to give away on the night. Halloween is so lucrative for the country that the Halloween and Costume Association is petitioning the government to extend the celebration to include an additional day of freakish fun on the weekend after 31 October.

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So which city in this Halloween-mad nation deserves the title of pumpkin king? After taking into account factors such as trick or treat friendliness, general fun and even the average weather forecast, website WalletHub did the maths and ranked New York City number one and Los Angeles a close second as the most spook-tacular places to enjoy the annual frightfest.

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  • Halloween parades take place in Los Angeles and New York City

One of the most popular activities to do during Halloween is to attend a party or parade and both the top cities boast some of the biggest shindigs around. The largest event in New York City is the Village Halloween Parade on the evening of 31 October. About 60,000 revellers will join in the costumed march up 6th Avenue to 16th Street, while an estimated 2 million people watch it.

Its full of the energy and creativity of NYC, says Jeanne Fleming, artistic and producing director of New Yorks Village Halloween Parade. The parade is a folk art phenomenon it often reflects the zeitgeist of what is happening in the world and then all the individuals take that on. Its energy derives from its state of constant change and renewal with the underpinnings of ancient ritual.

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Over on the west coast, 500,000 partygoers take part in the West Hollywood Halloween carnival, which proudly celebrates its LGBT community with a mix of theatrical performers, over-the-top costumes and bawdy drag queens. West Hollywood also tops the US for most Halloween Instagram shares, based on hashtags and mentions. And with 17% of Americans claiming they dress their pets up for the occasion, the city of angels also plays host to several canine costume parades.

Their owners, meanwhile, could take inspiration from this years Google data, which reveals some of the most searched-for outfits in the US. The evil clown Pennywise from the film and Stephen King novel It is ranked the most popular costume in 2019, searched for most in five cities including Zanesville, Ohio, and Harrisonburg, Virginia. Spider-Man is a favourite in Meridian, Mississippi, and a dinosaur is a hit in several cities including Boston, Massachusetts. The top costume in the city of Bangor, Maine, however, is a character from the game Fortnite. If youre looking for a less scary option, head to Fairbanks, Alaska, where a fairy is the costume most Googled.

Although Bonfire Night on 5 November has traditionally been the main autumnal festival in England, Halloween has had a huge spike in popularity in recent years. In 2018, more than half of UK households (51.5%) spent money on Halloween-related products. According to figures from Statista, spending almost doubled in five years, from 230m in 2013 to 419m in 2018.

The UK has the most Halloween-themed events listed on the Eventbrite website, outside of the US. Thats followed by Canada, Australia, and Ireland. In fact, the number of UK Halloween-related events listed on the website has more than trebled since 2015, to about 2,000 events across the country this year. Most of those are hosted in London, followed by Glasgow and Manchester.

One trend that the company has noticed is the increasing number of heritage sites hosting haunted house events. The 300-year-old Mansion House in York voted the UKs most haunted city in 2002 is one such historic venue keen to embrace Halloween by hosting their own family friendly ghost tour.

Mansion House marketing manager Ellie Davies says: Its a beautiful Georgian building and lends itself well to that spooky aesthetic. Weve decorated the whole house in cobwebs, we have sinister creaking noises, headless ghosts and spooky silhouettes.

The local tourist board has been promoting Yorks haunted reputation and making the most of Halloweens surge in popularity, says Davies. We have got everything that makes York a spooky city. We have got the Shambles, weve got hidden doors in walls, weve got creepy archways and old buildings. It all comes together to create this spooky environment and people are wanting more and more.

Halloween

Halloween

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  • A Halloween parade in Kawasaki, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan

For children, one of the most exciting aspects of Halloween is trick or treating. But the quality and quantity of your haul may depend on where you live. According to 2017 data from Statista, Brighton is the best city to knock on neighbours doors for sweets, with residents forking out an average of 18.60 per person on Halloween treats each year. On the other hand, children living in Hull are less lucky with just an average of 1.70 a year spent on Halloween treats.

Halloween appears to have the ability to not only cross continents but also cultures. One city in which it has taken root is Tokyo, Japan. Large scale celebrations first began at the capitals Disneyland theme park but have now spread across the city. Residents have embraced the western festival, blending their own tradition of cosplay or costume play with the supernatural horror themes of Halloween.

The biggest event in town is the massive Kawasaki Halloween Parade. It only started in 1997 but now attracts more than 100,000 people who line the 1.5km route through the Tokyo district dressed as everything from a Samsung phone to a giant toothbrush. As well as this, the annual Harajuku-Omotesando Hello Halloween Pumpkin Parade features more than 3,000 costumed children under 12 parading along the 700-metre zelkova tree-lined section of Omotesando. Shibuya on the other hand has been the scene of Halloween mayhem in recent years with extra security being brought in this year to stop impromptu street parties from spiralling out of control.

As Halloween fever spreads around the world, not everyone is happy about what is seen as a US import that is displacing their own cultural traditions. Despite its critics, the festival is showing no signs of slowing down. So haters better fire up the cauldron, dust down their pointy hats and polish those fangs, because if you cant beat them, join them.

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Original Article : HERE ; The Ultimate Survival Food: The Lost Ways