Halloween celebrations in Europe

A pagan festival, Halloween is celebrated much differently today than it was in the eighth century! The celebration of Halloween originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain when people would light bonfires to ward off roaming ghosts and evil spirits. In the eighth century Pope Gregory III designated November 1, which has become known as All Saint´s Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before became known as All Hallow´s Eve and later, Halloween. We take a look at some of Europe´s Halloween Traditions:


Long before pumpkins became famous during Halloween in England, children would carve out beets, potatoes and turnips to use as lanterns to scare away evil spirits and ghosts. Apple-bobbing is thought to link back to the days of the Romans who worshipped the Goddess of fruit and trees, Pomona. The Romans would hold festivals in October to worship Pomona, which is why apple-bobbing is still popular during Halloween today. Apples are placed in a large tub or bowl and blindfolded contestants have to try and take a bite out of the fruit without touching it. People began dressing up for Halloween to disguise themselves from ghosts they imagined came back to earth on 31 October. They also left bowls of food out on the doorstep to try and appease the spirits and stop them entering their homes. Trick or treating originated from children dressing up as ghosts to scare householders into giving them sweets or money.


Halloween in Belgium is celebrated widely and colourful processions are held with giant spiders, vampires, ghosts and ghouls parading through the streets. Local shops and patisseries sell spooky cakes, decorated with ´cobwebs´, ´witches´ and ´ghoulish figures´ and vampire-costumed children knock on doors for treats. Parties are held throughout the town, and special cuisine prepared to celebrate the occasion. Fairground rides and attractions are set up in most major cities and towns. Halloween in Belgium is great fun for all the family.


La Fete d´Halloween is regarded as an American holiday in France and was never celebrated until the mid-90´s. The French love of festivals and parties changed all that, and the opening of The Mask Museum in Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent in 1992 put Halloween firmly on the map. Many of France´s largest companies began using Halloween images and characters in advertising campaigns, and the rest is history. Halloween is celebrated in France by costumed people going to parties in private houses, bars and clubs. The costumes tend to be traditionally scary - mummies, ghosts, goblins, witches, and vampires.


German people traditionally hide their knives out of sight on Halloween night so that returning spirits cannot use them. Many modern Halloween traditions have been embraced by Germany, and celebrations have become much more popular in the past ten years. By mid-October you will start to see hollowed-out pumpkins on the doorsteps of many German homes. Department stores stock a vast choice of Halloween costumes and themed decorations. Night clubs open their doors to hundreds of costume-clad crowds who want to dance till dawn. Not the dancing type? One of the best Halloween venues in Germany is the 1,000 year old castle in Darmstadt, known as Burg Frankenstein. Said to be the inspiration for Mary Shelley´s Frankenstein novel in 1818, paranormal activity has been recorded at the castle and the Frankenstein Knights are said to still haunt it today.

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