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European Halloween Customs

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Austria

Traditionally, some Austrians will leave out a lit lamp, bread and water on the dinner table before they go to sleep on Halloween night. They believe it will attract the dead souls back to earth, as the night had an extreme commotion of cosmic energies.

Belgium

Belgians will light candles in honor of their deceased relatives on Halloween night.

Czech Republic

Traditionally, the Czechs place chairs by their fireplaces on Halloween night. They place one for each family member, and one for each family member’s spirit. There is not much dressing up and trick or treating among the native Czechs. However, if you go out to party on Halloween night in Prague, the clubs are packed with Americans in costume.

England

In the past, the English used to have customs with carving turnips and beets during Halloween. Children would make “punkies,” where they would carve sculptures out of large beetroots. In the countryside, people would light turnip lanterns to scare away spirits. However, this has died down a bit and been replaced by the American customs of dressing up and trick or treating. Not all people have adapted to this custom, and get surprised when a bunch of strange children show up at their door step.

Germany

Germans hide their knives on Halloween. They do not want to risk cutting the returning spirits.

Ireland

Ireland is believed to be the birthplace of Halloween, and they celebrate it every year. In the Irish countryside, people often will set up a huge bonfire, while children dress in costumes and go trick or treating. It is a practice of celebration for their Celtic heritage. Irish people bob for apples, as well as “snap apple,” where people try to bit out of an apple tied to a string and suspended in the air. The Irish also eat the traditional “barnbrack,” a form of fruitcake.

Spain

Some Spanish people celebrate “Dia de los Muertos,” which begins on October 31st and ends on November 2nd, “All Saints Day.” It is a holiday of ancestor appreciation, and many people build kiosks decorated with candy, flowers, photographs, water and samples of food and drinks to dedicate to the dead. People will also visit their relatives’ gravestones to tidy them up.

Sweden

Sweden celebrates “Alla Helgons Dag” from October 31st-November 6th. October 30th is considered the eve of this holiday, and work gets out early.

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