Derry, the second biggest city in Northern Ireland, is one of the best places to celebrate Halloween across the globe. Yes, you read that right! It’s definitely not the first place to come to mind for many when asked. You may be aware of Mexico and its famous celebration of “Dia de los Muertos” Day of the Dead, or the stories of Dracula in his home of Transylvania; but have you heard of, or better yet experienced the 4-day Halloween festivities of Derry? There is a reason why Derry was voted by USA Today in 2016 as the Best Halloween Destination in the World. Continue reading on below to find out why!
History of Halloween in Derry
The beginning of the celebration of Halloween dates back to the old Celtic tradition of Samhain which marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. According to local folklore this was the time when the evil of the afterlife could easily pass through to this world and walk the earth.
Derry celebrates Samhain by hosting an unmissable 4-day Halloween festival full of spectacular events fusing ancient myth and cutting-edge culture. The Halloween festivities first began in Derry in 1986, when Derry City Council introduced a small stage in Guildhall Square with some live music. Since then, the celebrations have expanded dramatically with festival numbers increasing year on year to the point where over 120,000 visitors enjoyed the 4-day event in 2019.
What to Expect:
This Spooktacular festival covers everything you could possibly imagine for a Halloween carnival, with events taking place for visitors of all ages. Below we have put together some of our highlights.
Awakening of the Walls
A vital part of the Derry Halloween celebrations is the 17th century walls that surround the city. The walls are used exceptionally for the “Awakening of the Walls” which sees them brought to life with various spooky and colourful characters and animations projected along their perimeter. Along the trail you will hear haunting tales of the past, see spooktacular haunted windows and alleys and hear performances by many local and international artists. This runs for 3 days in the lead up to the big carnival parade at the end of Samhain.
Spooky Storytelling & Horror Pictures
Storytelling is also another important part of the Halloween celebrations. Throughout Samhain the Guildhall is home to a series of Celtic storytellers who will transport you back to a land of myths, legends, warriors and witches with their both eerie and engaging tales. A mix of locally produced and also all-time classic horror films can also be viewed in various areas around the city throughout the event.
The Derry Halloween festival has all of your preparation under control, with numerous Halloween workshops taking place across the city in the lead up to the big parade. Workshops include pumpkin carving, costume decorating, make-up courses, spooky doll designs and much, much more!
Have a well needed break from all of the spooks and scares with Samhain sessions. Samhain Sessions is a series of intimate gigs which take place under the Samhain moon and cultural venues across Derry. Samhain Sessions features some of Ireland’s most talented musicians, ensuring a good time is had by all!
LegenDerry Food Village
Foodies will also be in heaven with the LegenDerry Food Village, located at Waterloo Place. The Food Village brings together the very best local street food and autumn snacks that the city has to offer. This is the perfect way to re-fuel before returning to the scarily exciting activities taking place around you.
Derry Halloween Carnival Parade
The pinnacle of the event is undoubtedly the carnival parade which sees a blend of circus and carnival acts, street performers and dance groups, from all over the world come together to put on the parade of a lifetime. It really is terrifyingly good! The Derry Halloween extravaganza culminates with a breath-taking firework display which takes place right over the River Foyle.
Make sure to truly embrace the chaos of Derry Halloween and get involved in as much as you can, we guarantee you won’t experience anything like this anywhere else in the world!
Maldron Hotel Derry
We may not have coffins, but Maldron Hotel Derry is the perfect place to have a fang-tastic night’s sleep after a long day of activities. It will be love at first bite when you sink your teeth into some of the eerie-sistible dishes served in our terrifyingly delicious Grain & Grill Restaurant.