History of Halloween

History of Hallowe’en

What started life as a simple fancy-dress party in a local pub has become the most exciting Halloween celebration on the globe.

The award-winning Derry Halloween is now an unmissable, bucket list event, with visitors from around the world – and the Other World – flocking to our city to enjoy a spectacular festival fusing ancient myth and cutting-edge culture.

Celtic origins

Halloween has its roots in the Celtic tradition of Samhain, marking the end of the harvest season and the start of winter.

Local folklore and legends are filled with fascinating stories, songs and characters inspired by Samhain, when the veil between this world and the other is at its thinnest, allowing spirits to pass through.

Derry Halloween

The city’s first organised Halloween celebrations began in the mid-80s, when some venues began hosting Halloween events and the homemade costume soon became a local speciality.

In the early years, youngsters would trick or treat in granny’s finest net curtains; these days costumes are planned months in advance and some truly out-of-this-world creations can be spotted on the streets.

In 1986, Derry City Council introduced a small stage and live music in the Guildhall Square. Since then, the festivities have snowballed. Events have also been added in recent years to take in Strabane and rural hubs. Last year more than 120,000 visitors enjoyed a four-day Derry Halloween.

A world-class event

What was once a local affair now lures visitors from Europe, the US, Canada and beyond. 

A massive public poll by USA Today in 2016 saw Derry crowned Best Halloween Destination in the World.

As well as its international flavour, what makes the festival really special is the strong grassroots element, with hundreds of local children and community organisations getting involved in the choreography, prop and costume-making for the main Carnival parade.

Working under the guidance of the North West Carnival Initiative, more than 600 participants pull together to bring the celebration to life on Halloween night, drawing in crowds of 40,000 for the official Carnival parade.

Bigger than ever

Recent awards have included Tourism Project of the Year at the UTV Business Eye Awards 2017, and Best International Experience at the 2019 Northern Ireland Tourism Awards.

This year is set to be the biggest, brightest and best Derry Halloween yet, with visitor numbers set to soar and an exciting The Other World Awakens theme.

So why not hop on a broomstick and join the party?