Sunday 31 October 2010

All Hallows Eve in Sweden

Hallowe'en in Sweden is a very confused affair. All Hallows Day or Alla Helgons Dag, the feast of all the Saints, in Sweden is more like a season than a single Holiday, and is celebrated between the 31st of October and the 6th of November. It has been celebrated in Sweden since Catholic days, then on the 1st of November (of course), but, as is typical of Swedish Lutheranism, although the cult of Saints was no longer practised, the feast of all the Saints continued to be observed.

In 1772 the day lost its status as a National Holiday, which was not to be brought back until 1953. Even then, the intention was more to provide a public holiday in the late Autumn than to restore the Christian tradition. It was then to be celebrated on the Saturday between October 31st and November 6th. The day is marked as a sort of second class public holiday with the Friday before, which becomes our eve of All Hallows, allhelgonaafton, being a half day.

The celebrations consist mainly of looking after the graves of departed loved ones and placing candles on the graves (like in the picture above), but in recent years the more American Halloween traditions have become popular also in Sweden with children dressing up and trick-or-treating. Therefore, although we call it All Hallows, the celebration is really about 'the Holy Souls' as Catholics would describe them.

The Irish-American Hallowe'en with its witches and pumpkins is making a big impact upon popular culture in Sweden now but of course we have our own native traditions relating to witches that I have already described in my posts for Valborgsmässoafton (St. Walpurgis' eve) and for Skärtordagen (Pink Thursday or Holy Thursday).


Anonymous said...

Really good. I liked a lot the way that the emphasis is on the souls of the departed, even if it is confused with the next day's feast. Thank you!

JTS said...

This is really interesting stuff. It seems like with this feast the real meaning has been completely lost but the outward symbols have been retained but misinterpreted. It's a very different kind of cultural norm but one that we will all have to get used to as Ireland creeps into neo-Paganism.


Anonymous said...

lots of lovely coustoms. thak god for you all.

Zara Folch said...

This is so cute. I lived in Minnesota for a while. I think that its really important to keep up all the unique customs that make us who we are. Trick 'r Treat is fine with me but I hope that Sweden doesnt lose the customs that make it unique.