TRICKA Or FICKA – How the Scandinavians celebrate HalloweenOctober 30, 2020
Ghouls, ghosts, goblins, witches and trolls. While in North America, Halloween is a night to be spooked by these “monsters” out in the streets, some sources say that, in norther Europe, October 31st was actually a day that signalled the coming of winter, when evil spirits emerged not to frighten us mere mortals, but to run away at midnight to escape the cold. Since then, the celebration has evolved to include ghost trains, costume parties, and treasure hunts. Let’s take a look at how the Scandinavians celebrate.
Halloween in Sweden is a week-long event, celebrated from October 31 until November 6. The most solemn part of the ritual is known as Alla Helgons Dag (All Saint's Day) and is a day to honour those who have passed away by lighting candles and spending time with family. Halloween also marks the beginning of autumn break for Swedish schools and coincides with a national holiday for All Saints Day, offering a welcome pause during the long working weeks when daylight hours start to disappear. Costumes and candy are mostly enjoyed by children and teenagers who attend parties, light lanterns, and run through the streets to scare the neighbourhood. The tradition of pumpkin carving, adopted from North American culture, has led to an increase in pumpkin farming, particularly on the island of Öland in the southern Baltic Sea.
Norwegians have been famously resistant to the notion of Halloween, - the Kirkerådet (Church of Norway National Council) first opposed the celebration on the grounds that it was an imported tradition that could be commercialized - but over the last decade the country has fallen under the witch's spell and these days, on October 31st echoes of "knask eller knep" (trick or treat) can be heard from Bergen to Oslo. Costumed children roam the streets with their parents in an adaptation of lommelykt i høstmørket, a traditional Norwegian game that combines hide-and-seek with a treasure-hunt, played with flashlights in the darkness of fall nights. They carve jack-o-lanterns, made popular in Donald Duck comic books, and feast on candy. Fun fact: the Norwegian word for “witch” is “heks,” which is where our English word for a witch’s curse comes from.
The Danes have a holiday where they dress up as their favourite superheroes and characters, sing songs, play games, and eat delicious cream-filled treats. Sounds like Halloween, right? But it's actually Fastelavn, and it takes place in the spring. Come fall, the Danish opt instead to celebrate All Saints’ Day, the first Sunday in November, placing candles on graves to commemorate the dead. Of course, children the world over aren't immune to the pull of Halloween, and in the last several years the celebration has gained popularity in Denmark. Today you'll find kids going door to door to collect cookies or money, and if they don't get it, the little imps make trouble. In Copenhagen, the famed Tivoli Gardens offer up loads of Halloween fun with a Ghost Train, Halloween hot dogs topped with pumpkin relish in a jet-black bun, and an abandoned underground hospital, crawling with the haunted spirits of patients past.
No matter where you are in the world, 2020 may not look like a typical Halloween, but you can still have a spooktacular holiday while maintaining physical distancing and staying safe. Make yourself a pumpkin-spiced latte, have a jack-o-lantern competition on Zoom, dress up in your favourite costume, and be grateful you won’t have to share any candy. However you celebrate, 2020 is sure to go down as a truly unBOOlievable Halloween.
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