Thoughts from abroad: Celebrating Halloween in Spain


photo by Miguel Webber

Studying abroad is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that is hard to pass up. But missing your favorite American holidays while abroad will always make you think twice. Halloween is undoubtedly a very American tradition, but you won’t be completely stuck if you decide to study abroad next fall. There are plenty of ways you can still get in on the fun of fright nights and free candy, even over 1,000 miles away. Please keep in mind, my advice is based from one student in a European country. Anyone going to the rest of the world is really on their own here.

The easiest form of celebrating Halloween from abroad is simply pretending you’re still in the United States! There are plenty of American food stores littered around European cities “” usually I just find a lot of Poptarts and barbeque sauce, but you can be inventive. Make a quick trip to one of these shops and buy out their entire candy section. Once you throw out the receipt and share some candy with your new international friends, it’ll feel exactly like Halloween back home! If you’re brave enough, you can go dressed up in your costume of choice. Hopefully the person behind the counter knows what day it is.

After your quick stop-and-shop, you can cement your friendship by watching a terrifying movie together. Or, if that’s not the vibe you want to give off, just watch “Hocus Pocus” or “Twitches.” We all know the mysterious underground methods that one uses to watch their favorite movies that aren’t on Netflix, but in a public newspaper, I’m here to tell you to use Amazon Prime or something. Pay for your movies, kids.

The friends that you make abroad, whether international or fellow Americans, will definitely enjoy bonding over a spooky movie. Movies are a wonderful bonding experience, especially in a group. By the end, you will have all shared this nostalgic experience of American Halloween, which can be just what you need if you’re feeling homesick.

Another option is to go to an activity that could be seen as vaguely American! I’m currently studying in Madrid, Spain, and one of the most popular cultural activities is going to a soccer game on a Sunday night. The two teams we have, Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid, both host games on Sundays. They’re full of avid fans, awed tourists and plenty of sporty food. Hotdogs (perritos calientes), orange Fanta (Fanta de naranja), any type of sandwich, potato chips and even some traditional gummy candies! After getting your comfort food, sitting in a stadium full of manic fans can really take you back home to the vibes you might get from watching a game with your friends.

If you’re less the do-it-yourself type and moreso the jump-in-headfirst type, consider just buying into the tourist traps that pop up in any big European city! The nightclubs and bars know exactly what day Halloween is, and they love cashing in on any popular holiday! There are thousands of American students in any European country, and nightclubs take special care to cater to our demographic. Feel free to take your best costume to a club and enjoy a Halloween special, complete with pumpkins, orange and black streamers and maybe even a spooky drink. You might be able to get a discount to get into these clubs just because you’re in costume (apparently that’s a thing).

Don’t think that your fall holidays are unattainable just because you plan on being in another country. Spooky vibes are universal, and you can always find ways to celebrate your freaky love in unconventional ways that still get the job done!