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Derry Girl for a Semester: Chapter 3: In Which Derry Welcomes the World…for Halloween?

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Written by Charissa Roberson

Here in Derry, the biggest holiday of the year isn’t Christmas, or Easter, or even St. Patrick’s Day—it’s Halloween. Posters have been up for weeks across the city, and even in cities across Northern Ireland, announcing the festivities that will soon begin. Costume stores have flung open their doors, and bakeries and gas stations alike have decorated their windows with spooky paraphernalia. Everyone is chatting excitedly about what costumes they will wear, and what events they will attend, and how this is the absolute best time of year to be in the city. Who would have thought? 

The hype surrounding Halloween is so intense that Derry began a countdown to the big event almost two months ago, and the local folk are not alone in considering Derry one of the best Halloween destinations. Come end of October, people from all over the world will flock to this smallish city in Northern Ireland, because here Halloween isn’t just one night—it’s a week-long celebration, with so many events and exhibitions that there is an entire booklet just detailing them all. 

The festivities kick off with a three-day demonstration called “Awakening the Walls,” which occurs around Derry’s 400-year-old city walls and is designed to “banish the dark” as Halloween (or “Samhain”) approaches. Throughout the holiday week, people can attend various concerts in the city’s majestic Guildhall, beneath the pale gleam of a massive Samhain Moon which hangs in the building’s main hall. After five days jam-packed with stories, shows, food and drink, crafts, tours, and so much more, the entire festival culminates on Halloween Night with a Samhain Parade through the city center, followed by a spectacular firework show over the River Foyle. 

I certainly didn’t expect it—when thinking of Northern Ireland, I didn’t immediately think “Best Halloween Destination in the World!”—but I’m excited to be here for the festival kicking off next week. And, as many people have told me, I don’t dare go out without a costume…

‘Til next time,

Charissa