It's an entirely Western holiday - so is it allowed in the UAE? And do expats celebrate it?
16 September 2019| Last updated on 28 October 2020
Is this your first Halloween in Dubai or UAE? Here's a complete guide to the holiday...
The most important thing to mention, first of all, is that Halloween is not an Islamic holiday and Muslims do not observe the occasion - but that doesn't mean Halloween is forbidden here.
Since the UAE is an Islamic country law and customs are governed by Islam and Shariah law. Islamic religious festivals celebrated here include Eid Al Fitr, and Eid Al Adha, alongside other events such as the Holy Month of Ramadan and the Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) birthday.
Nevertheless, the UAE is a tolerant country and is a melting pot of expatriate residents from different countries. As a result, it is common to find events and things to do for celebrations that don't necessarily originate from here. Diwali, Halloween, Christmas are all non-Islamic holidays, but UAE residents are able to celebrate these occasions here easily.
A brief history of the origins of Halloween
The origins of Halloween date back over two centuries. The Celts (or pagans) lived 2,000 years ago in the area we now know as the UK, Ireland and France, and they celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and signaled the beginning of the cold, dark winter ahead.
Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. As a result, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that ghosts returned from the dead.
This ancient holiday would later adopt the symbol of Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees (hello bobbing for apples!), during the Roman Empire, and even later in 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV would declare All Saint's Day on November 1, which intertwined the pagan holiday with Christian influences.
As a result, the night before it - the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic region - began to be called All Hallow's Eve and, eventually, Halloween.
Halloween's traditions were later brought to North America by immigrants from Ireland and Scotland and have since evolved, resulting in the popular October 31 celebrations that we're familiar with today.
How you can celebrate Halloween in Dubai
With a population of Western expatriates living here, it's unsurprising that Halloween has made its way onto the calendar in Dubai. While Halloween is nowhere near as popular in Dubai as it is in North America or the UK, the emirate still has a fair share of events or parties to get involved in.
Trick-or-treating in your community
Trick-or-treating is an easy, popular way to partake in Halloween celebrations here in the UAE. Communities like The Springs or Motor City arrange trick-or-treating on October 31 for families with small children to get involved with.
This custom involves visiting houses and asking them whether they'd like to see a trick, or share a treat... Nowadays it's basically just a ploy for kids to get lots and lots of sweets and candy!
Generally, the rule for trick-or-treating in Dubai is that if their lights are off and they have no decorations, avoid knocking on their door. Instead, seek homes that have Halloween paraphernalia clearly visible outside their door or in the window. You can even use community Facebook groups to find neighbours who are joining in the fun.
Most, if not all, major supermarkets sell pumpkins around the end of October for families to purchase and carve at home.
Of course, parental guidance is required when carving with little ones - but this Halloween activity is super fun to do together at home. When you're done, you can proudly display your pumpkins outside your door to let trick-or-treaters know you're joining in the fun.
Enjoy a Halloween-themed brunch
In true Dubai style, any occasion is an excuse for a themed brunch... And Halloween is no exception. Scores of hotels and restaurants arrange Halloween buffet and brunches that UAE residents can enjoy with friends and family. There's an array of family-friendly brunches that aren't too scary for kids or opt for a more grown-up vibe that comes with truly scary props and costumes.
Head to a Halloween-themed event at a theme park
Every year, major entertainment locations are known for hosting Halloween parties. Yas Waterworld, Dubai Parks and Resorts, Motiongate Dubai all hop-on the Halloween ghost train to bring costumes, characters, entertainment and shows for all to enjoy.
Arrange a Halloween house party with friends
Probably the easiest way to embrace Halloween is to throw or attend a house party. Decorations and Halloween props can be bought easily at some of the best Halloween costume stores in Dubai, so kitting your house out with ghouls and ghosts won't be difficult. Arrange a Halloween song list, turn off the lights and get into costume!
Be mindful of your neighbours who may not be observing Halloween - but you should respect thy neighbours all the time here, anyway.