Halloween isn’t really a traditional German celebration, but it has become more popular in recent years, especially with children. Most people seem to think this is partially from seeing it depicted in American television and movies, and I suspect that’s a big factor. Here, costumes are more commonly seen around Fasching.
German youngsters only go trick-or-treating (“Süßes oder Saures!”) in certain areas. Yesterday, I saw only three children running around with pillowcases, and that might not have been for candy- they might have just been running around with pillowcases.
I did find that there are a few traditions that are similar to Halloween’s origins in Europe, without being exactly Halloween.
- In the regions of Bavaria and Austria in Southern Germany, Catholics celebrate the entire period between October 30 and November 8 as Seleenwoche or All Souls’ Week.
- November 1st is Allerheiligen, or All Saints’ Day. Catholics attend church services in honor of the saints, the martyrs and those who have died for the Catholic faith. People may also visit their family’s graves to beautify them with wreaths and small lanterns. Sometimes a mass is said at the gravesite and the grave sprinkled with holy water.
- In some areas, November 2 is observed as All Souls’ Day. Catholics attend a special Requiem masses, where they remember those who may be close to them that have died. Prayers for the dead are said and votive candles are lit to honor their memory.
- In Austria, there’s an entire pumpkin (Kürbis) festival in late October, Kürbisfest.
- Jack O’Lantern decorations have become more common in Austria and Germany in late October.
Meanwhile, those of us who grew up with Halloween look for places to observe the holiday, and most of those places turn out to be bars and pubs.
In both locations, I saw lots of vampires, zombies, and pirates. There were a few people dressed as Warcraft characters, one amazing Peter Jackson styled Orc, and more people with random fake bloodstains than I can shake a stick at.
My costume was not as well known as I expected- roughly 90% of the Germans I ran into had no idea what I was dressed as. Amusingly enough, only Americans and Canadians call him Waldo. In the rest of the world, he’s Walter or Wally. I also learned last night that I can walk around the Altstadt in powder blue pants, and nobody will bat an eye. Oh, Germany, you make me laugh.
A few people I passed exclaimed “Hab dich gefunden!” (Found you!) as I walked past, so that was gratifying. And kind of hilarious.