Categories: Business News

Derry Halloween features on a unique Royal Mail stamp depicting and capturing the spirit of some of the UKs most celebrated events taking place around the UK.

The World-famous festival - voted the best Halloween Festival in the World by USA Today - is one of eight specially designed stamps issued by Royal Mail depicting and capturing the spirit of well-known annual customs that take place around the UK. 

Odhran Dunne, General Manager of Visit Derry, said: "It is fitting that Derry Halloween features on Royal Mail's stamp, given that it is Ireland's largest Halloween Festival.

Our Halloween Festival has already received worldwide recognition and attracts over 90,000 people each year. We look forward to welcoming visitors back in the future.

To find out more about Halloween, click here

Other stamps in the curious customs collection include:

  • Burning the Clocks, Brighton 
  • ‘Obby ‘Oss, Padstow
  • World Gurning Championship, Egremont
  • Up Helly Aa, Lerwick 
  • Cheese Rolling, Cooper’s Hill, Brockworth
  • Halloween, Derry/Londonderry
  • Horn Dance, Abbot’s Bromley
  • Bog Snorkelling, Llanwrtyd Wells 

Philip Parker, Royal Mail, said: “Communities throughout the UK have been coming together for centuries to share distinctive traditions and mark key dates of the year. These customs continue to evolve, and our new stamps celebrate their diversity and the communities that maintain them.”

To accompany the stamp issue, Royal Mail commissioned a poem by performance poet, Matt Harvey. Entitled, ‘Customs and Exercise’, the poem celebrates and commemorates the eight UK customs featured on the stamps.  

Customs and Exerciseby Matt Harvey

No matter what the custom is

We’re accomplices, not customers.

Magnificent participants in quirky endeavour

In curious costumes in inclement weather.

We’re guisers, we’re teasers, we’re chasers of cheeses

Boat-builders, clock burners, we’re vampires, we’re gurners.

We’re match-striking Vikings, we’re antler-lockers

‘Obby ‘Oss swoopers, Elfan safety snook-cockers.

We’re Cheerleaders, chortlers, we’re snorkelers, bog-sodden

We’re Ghouls in cagoules, fools ancient and modern.

It’s a dance with the past, it’s a craic, it’s a laugh.

Connection in every direction, belonging.

We might get a pint and an off-colour song in.

But what can get lost in the mist and missed in the fuss

Is that at the heart of all these customs

Is us.



A highly popular community midwinter folk festival in which participants carry paper clock lanterns made of willow wands and figures. The procession culminates on the beach where the lanterns are set alight and a firework display takes place. Established in 1994 this is an example of a successful modern tradition.


Two strange beasts called Osses (but barely resembling horses) swirl and sway through the streets of the Cornish town of Padstow on May Day accompanied by a host of drummers, musicians and dancers. before finally ‘dying’ at midnight. The first documentary record of this custom dates from 1803.


Gurning (or ‘girning’) was a widespread dialect word, from the same root as ‘grinning’, originally signifying ‘snarling’ or ‘baring the teeth in rage’. However, when it was adopted as an entertainment or competition at fairs, gurning took on the meaning of ‘pulling funny or ugly faces’. The Egremont Crab Fair in Cumbria was established in 1267, making it one of the oldest fairs in the world. Each September it holds the World Gurning Championships where each contestant’s face is framed within a large horse collar.


An impressive and famous fire festival which is more than 100 years old takes place in Lerwick on the last Tuesday of January. People in dress parade through the Shetland town, carrying blazing torches including the Guizer Squad in full Viking attire. A full size wooden Viking longship (built over the preceding year) is pulled through the town and is later ceremonially burned as part of the festivities.


Chasing a large cheese (or similar round object) down a hill was a widespread game at fairs

and wakes in the past. At Cooper’s Hill near Brockworth in Gloucestershire, the fair has long gone, but the rolling game continues every Spring Bank Holiday. None of the contestants has much hope of catching up with the cheese but the first to reach the bottom of the hill wins the prize.


Halloween’s origins are in the Celtic festival of Samhain and a tradition of dressing up and calling at houses for gifts has been common for many centuries. The world’s biggest Halloween Party is in Derry/Londonderry which now welcomes around 80,000 people. It involves parades, fancy dress, ghost walks, fireworks and was named as the world’s best Halloween celebration by a poll for USA Today.


This famous and ancient custom is unique in Europe. Six men carrying huge reindeer antlers plus characters dressed as Maid Marian, Fool, Hobby Horse and Bowman, celebrate ancient hunting rites. They perambulate the Staffordshire parish and at set places perform a dance. The design of the costumes and the dance have been preserved for hundreds of years, with the earliest reference to the horns dating from the 1630s. The horns have been carbon dated to around 1000 AD.


First held in 1976 the event involves contestants going across and back through a water-filled trench in a peat bog, with the fastest being the winner. Competitors from all over the world travel to the Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells each August to take part. Snorkels are essential as participants must remain submerged and only use flippers to propel themselves. This is an excellent example of a modern calendar custom based on a unique sporting event.

The stamps are available from, by phone on 03457 641 641 and from 2 July in 7,000 Post Offices throughout the UK.