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Pumpkins Are Pricey In Paris, And Other Stories Of Halloween Abroad

Africa, Europe and Asia carved into the side of a pumpkin. Halloween traditions common in the United States are catching on in other countries, says our travel expert.

When knkx travel expert Matthew Brumley was a student in Copenhagen in the mid-1980s, he says no one knew much about Halloween. But that is changing. Brumley has been overseas for about 15 Halloweens, and has watched it catch on, gradually.


“It’s Hollywood,” he said. “It’s the exportation of American traditions.”

Maybe it’s not the movie industry specifically. But as American popular culture spreads around the world – through films, music, the internet and more – so do our traditions.

In London, Brumley says you can find a great Halloween party in the city’s Covent Garden district.

“It’s really just an excuse for everyone to get into fancy dress, as they say, and party as hard as they can,” he said.

Halloween is also taking off in Paris. Brumley was there with his wife a few years ago and thought they would celebrate the holiday.

“We’ll get a good bottle of Côte du Rhône; we’ll go to the hotel room; we’ll carve a pumpkin; we’ll put it on the ledge of the hotel room,” he said, detailing his plan.

But finding a proper Halloween pumpkin was a challenge.

“There, the pumpkin was pre-carved by an artist, and was 65 euro, which is close to $100 at the time,” he said. “I said to the guy selling it, ‘No, you don’t get it. You’re not supposed to have someone carve it for you, you’re supposed to go home with, like, a butter knife and just massacre the thing.”

A Massive Party

So different places are interpreting the day in different ways. The common thread worldwide – in Paris, London, Cape Town and beyond – seems to be that it’s an excuse for a giant party.

Brumley says that particular exportation of American culture is warmly received most places, and in a better way than other traditions that might seem overly commercial. Santa Claus, for example, gets a chilly reception in parts of Austria and Bavaria, where the focus is on the very different character of Saint Nicholas, whose feast is celebrated earlier in December.

Day of the Dead

To be clear, the Day of the Dead is NOT Halloween. But if you grew up knowing Halloween, and find yourself in Mexico on Nov. 2, you might see some similarities.

Nov. 1 is All Saints Day in the Catholic world. And on Nov. 2, Mexico marks the Day of the Dead. While it often includes celebrations and costumes, it’s also used as a time to remember those who have died.

“It’s actually a World Heritage Event,” Brumley said. “The United Nations thinks of it as so unique and incredible in Mexico, that it’s a protected, respected event.”

The designation is conferred by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.


“Going Places” is 88.5’s weekly exploration of travel topics. Matthew Brumley is the co-founder of Earthbound Expeditions on Bainbridge Island, which provides small-group travel to clients including 88.5 knkx.

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.