Growing up in New York Halloween meant dressing up for costume parties, bobbing for apples, and trick or treating door to door. Even stores and businesses stock up candy to give to the kids. When I was a little older Halloween was more about the massive candy sales, carving jack o’lanterns, and decorating with gravestones, half buried skeletons, glow in the dark eyes, and cobwebs. You can’t go anywhere without seeing spooky decorations everywhere.
Pumpkin Picking Two Years Ago vs. “Bobbing for Pumpkins” This Year
The cashiers literary didn’t know how to ring it up or what to charge.
Halloween in Sweden just isn’t the same. There’s the occasional costume party. Some bars have Halloween themed nights. But… there’s no decorated houses, porches or windows. No Pop-up Halloween stores to excitedly browse. No gigantic bags of individually wrapped candy that will be half price in a week. No candy corn. No haunted houses. No pumpkin patches to find the perfect pumpkin. No excited trick or treaters. (So Far)
Thankfully, our local bakery bakes Halloween themed cakes:
The Americanized Halloween traditions I’m so used to were introduced to Sweden in the 1990′s, supposedly from Hard Rock Cafe and a Swedish year-round costume chain called “Buttericks”, but American traditions are also widely known and sometimes mimicked in Sweden through TV and Movies. With all the hype and festivities, a lot of people forget that Halloween is not an American holiday, but instead has Pagan (fall harvest festival of Samhain) and Christian (All Saints Eve/ All Hallows’ Eve) roots, which was brought to America by the surge of Irish immigrants in the 19th century and became mainstream in the 20th century.
Similarly to Valentines day (Read Here), Halloween is observed and known in Sweden, but not nearly to the same extent. This is ALL of the Halloween stuff I could find in town, aside from a couple bars and bakeries:
I’ve read a few interesting reasons why Sweden hasn’t jumped on the Halloween bandwagon:
1) All Saints Day is traditionally observed here, which is a time to pay respect to saints, visit the graves of loved ones, and light candles in remembrance. The two holidays conflict too much, as the contrast between them is too drastic. Some think they are the same day, but they are not. Alla Helgons Dag = All Saints Day Alla Helgons Afton (eve) = Halloween
2) Many people here view Halloween as only celebrating with scary costumes such as skeletons, ghosts, witches, and zombies (From the few Halloween costumes I’ve found in stores I’ve never seen anything cute and fun like princess’s, cowboys, cartoon characters, or superheroes) Too many “Tricks” are associated as part of the regular tradition, such as toilet papering and throwing rotten eggs. This seems to discourage parents.
3) Youngsters in Sweden dress up as witches for Easter (Read here), starsholders for Lucia, and gingerbread cookies for Christmas. Another costume? No Thanks.
4) Trick or Treating is pointless when Swedes have a huge lösgodis (Loose candy) consumption and buy candy regularly.
Some confusion about the “When” is also a part of the Swedish Halloween downfall. While some people celebrate on the “traditional” or “popular” date October 31st, some Swedes will still celebrate Halloween on the eve of All Saints Day, even though it is now a floating date - the first Saturday between October 31st and November 6th. I’ve read stories of expats being very confused about finally receiving their first ever trick or treaters, but it was almost a week later and they weren’t prepared. There are also some school parties or bar themed parties the weekend BEFORE, which spreads out the holiday celebration even thinner.
I was sad to hear that carving pumpkins is also not too common (I’ve seen two outside of a toy store), and many Swedes have never carved a pumpkin! I couldn’t resist the tradition- and it turns out my husband HAS carved pumpkins and is quite skilled at it!
I just stumbled upon a website for a pumpkin patch in Sweden that an American started in 1998: Louie’s Pumpkin Patch It might be something to check out next year!
Additionally the island of Öland has a yearly fall harvest festival Skördefest during the last days on September, which looks like fun! Öland is known for the Swedish pumpkin growing, and has expanded since the introduction of Halloween.
I dressed up a little witchy to celebrate All Hallows Eve, and was met with strange looks. Maybe because it was during the day. I’ve heard reports from classmates of spotting other people dressed up, but haven’t seen more than two.
My earrings are cute spiders…because the devil is in the details
Next year I’m having a Halloween party to bring the celebration to ME.
In the meantime, I’m planning Thanksgiving Dinner for my Swedish family! Any tips?
Happy Halloween Everyone! *And a lot of love and prayers to those who lost so so much in Hurricane Sandy, I am thankful that my friends and family only sustained minimal damage but NYC as a whole is on my mind – Halloween has been a needed distraction.*
Halloween – Alla Helgons Afton
To Celebrate – Att Fira
Pumpkin – Pumpa
Candle – Ljus
Costume - Maskeraddräkt
Witch – Häxa
Spider – Spindel
Ghost – Spöke