Happy Halloween in Switzerland!

Boo! Happy Halloween! What? In Switzerland? Yep, take a deep breath, relax, the world is one large melting pot. Switzerland has always looked to the United States about what to eat, so why not what to do.

Quick history

I believe it all started in Ireland, but why and when exactly is impossible to say. Most likely it began in Celtic times as a pagan fest and then was it was influenced or taken over by Christians. Nonetheless, it is celebrated on the eve before All Hallows’ Day (All Saints’, Hallowmas) it is basically remembering the dead. The tradition was brought to America as All Hallow’s Eve by Irish and Scottish immigrants in the 19th century.

I have fond memories as a child dressing up, going door to door and collecting candy. Occasionally we would go to a party and among other things bob for apples. But we never threw the kind of parties or did the kind of stuff you see on TV. Actually, we never played tricks or ever tried to scare anyone, ever. I know, boring, but it is what it is. When I came to Switzerland I more or less forgot about it, until recently.

Social media and television has spread the word back to Europe. It all began about 10 years ago, traditional, American decorations started showing up in the stores. I had to look twice the first time I saw them. Sure Switzerland celebrates All Saints’ day and it has a deep set Catholic tradition. Halloween has similar beginnings but took a different road to end up where it is today.

Swiss Halloween

It is catching on and who knows, maybe in 20 years it will be tradition. What you need is a generation to grow up with it and poof, it’s folklore. In a neighboring town they have a Pumpkin Parade with school children. They carry their handmade Jack-o’-lanterns and wear costumes. A nice start.

Slowly, very slowly trick-or-treating is catching on, too. About two years ago I thought now that Halloween is being commercialized maybe we’ll get trick-or-treaters. I did everything I could think of to say “Welcome”. I carved a pumpkin, put a candle in it and set it outside. Then I put lots of ceramic pumpkins out with candles in them that led directly to our door. I bought two bags full of chocolate and waited. And waited, and waited, and waited. The doorbell rang once with 3 children and their father hovering nearby. That was it. The rest of the evening was quiet.

This Year

halloweenOne thing I learned quickly was, if you are going to buy candy, buy only what you like because you will probably end up eating what’s leftover yourself. I thought about downsizing the amount of candy from the first year, but you just never know. I will hang out a “Welcome” sign this evening. But because carving a pumpkin was a lot of work I will only use the ceramic pumpkins. The first year there was one “group” and last year we had two “groups”. Seeing the trend, I’m expecting three this year but we bought candy for at least 50, maybe more.

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