Halloween traditions in Germany

by Jessica Zen
Stripes Europe

Children running around decked out head to toe in elaborate costumes, desperately trying to collect the most possible candy before mom and dad take them home, is one of the many highlights of an American Halloween. Watching “Hocus Pocus” for the 20th time, carving pumpkins, singing the monster mash and roasting pumpkin seeds are a few other traditions in which children participate. Adults flock towards haunted houses and tend to use pumpkin spice in every imaginable food. But what about Halloween in Germany?

Though Halloween is primarily a North American holiday, Germany has started celebrating more and more. From media influence to the influx of American soldiers after the end of WWII, Germans have been exposed to American customs. While the Americans certainly play a large role, credit for bringing Halloween to Germany is also given to the German Association for the Toy Industry, which campaigned to promote Halloween after carnival was canceled in 1991 because of the First Gulf War. Since then, Halloween has become the third most popular holiday, after Christmas and Easter.

Since festivals are one of the most popular ways to celebrate in Germany, what better way to celebrate Halloween than to have a pumpkin festival? Though not all of the pumpkin festivals have ties with Halloween, there are certainly some that encourage costumes and the Halloween theme. Other pumpkin festivals are more focused on the fall harvest season, though equally as fun.

For the ultimate haunted house, many Halloween enthusiasts find themselves at the Frankenstein Castle Halloween party in Pfungstadt, which promises to make your blood run cold while adrenaline courses through your body as you are scared senseless. Children can enjoy a less spooky party on Sundays filled with food, fun and no fear.

Trick-or-treating can be found in Germany, though mostly only in larger cities. This tradition isn’t as widely practiced because children go out in costumes to collect treats on St. Martin’s Day on Nov. 11. If you do see German children, or even adults dressed up for Halloween, their costumes are likely on the scarier side. With so many other opportunities to dress up during the year, Germans tend to stick with more frightening masks and costumes. If you do have the pleasure of German trick-or-treaters, you’ll hear them say “Süßes oder Saures!”

While Halloween is certainly present in Germany, there are still some that aren’t fond of the celebration, as it directly interferes with a religious holiday. Reformation Day also falls on Oct. 31, and is a Protestant religious celebration of when Martin Luther started religious and social changes throughout Europe. There are some states in Germany where this is a public holiday, and many businesses are closed.

If you are looking to celebrate Halloween in Germany, it’s likely that you won’t have to search very hard. Embrace the local way and head to a haunted castle or pumpkin festival. Don’t forget to find the scariest costume possible if it’s a dress up event and definitely watch any of the “Halloween” movies to get in the holiday spirit! 

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