In ancient Celtic times, the night of Oct. 31 was said to be when spirits returned to Earth. Whether it’s because of the harvest, the beauty of the changing season, the cold winter nights on the way or simply a time-honored tale passed down for centuries, many countries around the world have traditions rooted in remembrance of the dead that are customarily observed during October and November.
As the “spooky” season approaches, we’ve mapped out some of the most intriguing traditions from destinations you could visit while on a Royal Caribbean cruise. And if you’re inspired to set sail for your next vacation, just think: There are plenty more places where these came from and cruises that will take you there.
Read on for five fall and Halloween (or similar) customs in popular cruise destinations.
Dia de los Muertos – Mexico
Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead (a holiday very famously depicted in the popular Pixar movie “Coco”) is a lively tradition honoring life, death and familial bonds. From Nov. 1 to Nov. 2, family and friends who have passed away are remembered by their loved ones.
This custom can involve parades, street performances, traditional Mexican street art, and of course, the holiday’s iconic symbols: skulls and skeletons. Candles and photographs of departed loved ones are placed on altars along with offerings or ofrendas, like favorite foods and objects of personal significance. Dia de los Muertos has its roots in Aztec heritage, and it’s still a widely celebrated tradition that is closely associated with Mexico.
Fun fact: Other countries also observe a form of Dia de los Muertos. For example, Spain observes three similar days: Oct. 31 is Day of the Witches; Nov. 1, a national holiday, is All Saints Day; and Nov. 2 is Day of the Dead/All Souls Day.
Take a cruise to Mexico and a variety of Caribbean destinations.
La Festa di Ognissanti and Il Giorno dei Morti – Italy
These two Italian fall traditions, which translate to All Saints Day and Day of the Dead respectively, are deeply rooted in Italian culture. Whereas many other countries mark similar periods of remembrance with lively gatherings or rituals, Italian Catholics solemnly observe these two days by praying for the deceased. Although La Festa di Ognissanti and Il Giorno dei Morti are seeing more Halloween-inspired customs take place, they are still acknowledged with days of rest on which people make authentic meals and desserts. These include sweets like soft almond cookies known as fave dei morti or Day of the Dead cookies.
Pro tip: For a taste of Italy no matter where you’re headed, visit restaurants on board a Royal Caribbean ship like Jamie’s Italian by Jamie Oliver or Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar.
Halloween – United States
Since many Americans’ Halloween customs were inspired by other cultures, the holiday in the United States has become a kind of patchwork of festivities. It’s associated with carving and painting pumpkins, baking festive pumpkin-themed desserts and meals, dressing up in fun costumes and trick-or-treating on Halloween night in hopes of loading up on candy. Although that custom is typically practiced by kids, adults also often celebrate with family and on their own by hosting themed parties, watching scary movies and TV shows, and more.
Pro tip: Check out the many cruises that sail from the U.S., like in Galveston, Texas. The city is home to Harmony of the Seas, the Lone Star State’s biggest adventure and Royal Caribbean ship to date.
Pangangaluluwa – Philippines
In the Philippines, Pangangaluluwa takes place on what’s known as All Hallows Eve (Oct. 31). In place of trick-or-treating from home to home, people, usually children, wear traditional Filipino facepaint and sing at the doorsteps of each home. They’re traditionally singing from what’s thought to be the perspective of the dead’s lost souls. Those at home welcoming the visit are then expected to give kakanin, an offering (often food) that the children, or the lost souls, can bring to the dead to find their way back. This activity has its historic origins in the Tagalog people of the Philippines. In recent years, the country has also incorporated customs from more Western versions of Halloween, like costumes and trick-or-treating.
Fun fact: Many of Royal Caribbean’s dedicated crew members hail from the Philippines, making this a destination held near and dear.
Explore this part of the world on a transpacific or South Pacific cruise.
Samhain (SAH-win) is a festival historically celebrated in Ireland and Scotland, as well as other British Isles. Reportedly dating back to 9th-century Ireland, the first recorded instances of this festival included feasting in preparation for a long winter, bonfires and divination. Samhain takes place between Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, and it’s thought to be a time when the barriers between the physical and spiritual world come down.
In more recent times, Edinburgh, Scotland, holds an annual fire parade on the night of Samhain. Fire is thought to have cleansing powers, and the parade is one of the city’s biggest winter festivals (think: Celtic New Year). With drumming, acrobatics and dancers dressed as otherworldly creatures, the parade tells the story of winter conquering summer. It truly is a sight to see.
Chart course for the British Isles on a cruise in Europe.
Inspired to travel and learn more about these countries? Check out the cruises that will take you there.