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October - Germanic Europe

Halloween - From Ireland to America and Back to Europe 

Imported from Ireland

To find the origin of Halloween, one has to look to the festival of Samhain in Ireland's Celtic past. Samhain was an important fire festival, celebrated over the evening of 31 October and throughout the following day. Back then it was believed that evil spirits visited the mortal world on Halloween.To ward them off, people lit bonfires and wore bizarre costumes.

Today, no one does celebrate Halloween like Ireland did in the past. Not even Ireland itself, but there are events across the entire island. One of the biggest celebrations can be found on the banks of the river Foyle, where the city of Derry-Londonderry has been putting on an annual street carnival for 30 years. It is one of the biggest Halloween parade in Europe; a noisy, fantastical fest.

Celebrating in America

It seems like a big part of the world’s celebration of Halloween is located in America. Halloween in the States is usually celebrated amongst family, friends and, sometimes, co-workers. Many parties and other events are planned on October 31st and around this date. Adults and children may celebrate by holding costume parties or creating haunted houses or graveyards.

Many kids also dress up in fancy costumes and visit other homes in the neighborhood. The US Americans love to put a lot of decoration around their houses. At each house, the kids demand sweets, snacks, or a small gift. If they do not get this, they threaten to do some harm to the inhabitants of the house. This is known as playing 'trick-or-treat' and is supposed to happen in a friendly spirit. Some families carve lanterns with 'scary' faces out of pumpkins or other vegetables, or decorate their homes and gardens in Halloween style. Nevertheless, Halloween is not an official holiday. Government offices and businesses are open as usual and public transit services run on regular schedules.

For personal experience, one of our committee members shares her information about Halloween in America. She was in the States as an Au-Pair, located in Old Greenwich in the State Connecticut. The city was very dense populated because it is close to New York City. Approximately over one month before October the 31st, the people started putting decoration all around their houses and also inside their homes. Some streets are so bright at night because of all the light strings, that you can not recognize the houses anymore. When it's Halloween, all kids are only talking about what they want to wear while going trick-or-treating or what candy they want to eat first. They are going through the streets of their neighborhood in small groups of five to ten kids. Most of the times there is an adult looking after them. When the kids come home from their tour, they want to show everyone how much candy they collected. All kinds of sweets are at home, from chocolate over gummy-bears to pretzels. It is a great day for kids but also for adults, everyone can have fun.

Going back to Germany

As a result of the long postwar presence of Americans in Germany and Halloween depictions in movies and television, Halloween has grown its attention in Germany. Halloween may not be a traditional German celebration, but virtually every German knows about it today. Over the past couple of decades, Halloween has become quite popular in some regions, especially in the south of Germany, where it is common to see pumpkin and jack-o’-lantern decorations by mid-October.

Compared to the celebrations in the USA, Germany is not much different at all. Children also enjoy “trick-or treating“ there, teenagers having costume parties and adults are meeting for Halloween dinner or booze. One personal experience from one of or committee members, who is originally from Bavaria (south Germany) is, that a lot of parents love to meet with their neighbors or friends after “trick-or-treating“ with their kids/siblings. Also it is quite common to have an “after party” at home after the official Halloween party in town, which mostly teenagers are attending. There, teenagers are gathering together with their friends, talking, drinking beer and eating snacks. Nevertheless Halloween is not that popular among most parts of Germany.

However, Halloween is a nice day for dressing up and have some fun with your friends and family, no matter in which country you are ort in which way you celebrate this special fest.

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