Pumpkins at the ready! It's Halloween and no one turns on the ghoulish good times better than the Big Apple.

LOCATION: New York City, New York, USA

DATE: 31 October

The shrill cry of 'trick or treat' from children on the doorstep, dressed as a blood-curdling gang of zombies and ghouls, is as synonymous with the States as baseball and Big Macs. It's an important part of American family life and Hollywood slasher movies. In both cases, excited nippers hang up jack-o'-lanterns - carved pumpkins with grisly faces and candles inside - before donning rubber masks and doorstepping the neighbourhood.

As well as filling small-town America with wholesome family fun, the night gives the cities, particularly New York and San Francisco, an excuse to dress up for decidedly unwholesome parties. The former organises the nation's largest event, not to mention its only major night parade. More than two million people, resembling everything from Beelzebub to Batman, turn up to watch a gang of giant puppets sway through Manhattan. Some of the puppets tower alongside the buildings on Sixth Ave and controlling them takes the efforts of up to 1000 people.

The name Halloween is a corruption of All Hallows' Eve – the night before the Christian festival All Hallows' Day (All Saints' Day). This in turn grew out of Samhain, the Celtic end-of-harvest festival, which is the source of the once-popular custom of apple bobbing.

LOCAL ATTRACTIONS: New York Talks and Walks offers ghoulish tours including 'Ghostly Greenwich Village'.

MORE INFO: www.halloween-nyc.com

Explore related stories