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Allerheiligentag (All Saints’ Day) in Germany

Halloween’s Origins and Traditions of Celebration in Germany

Halloween is when all demons and witches are out for the night hunting, and when there are pumpkins glaring out of the windows, and when it’s better to give a treat instead of being tricked…

Halloween is celebrated each year on October 31. It had its beginnings in an ancient, pre-Christian Celtic festival of the dead. The Celtic peoples, who were once found all over Europe, divided the year by four major holidays. According to their calendar, the year began on a day corresponding to November 1st on our present calendar. The date marked the beginning of winter. All Hallows’ Even, later shortened to Halloween, was observed on the evening of October 31st.

Halloween is for the Celtic peoples (Scotch, Irish, and part of the English) the eve of the festival of Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween), Lord of the dead. The Celtic year ended on October 31, the eve of Samhain, and was celebrated with both religious and agrarian rites. For the Druids, Samhain was both the “end of summer” and a festival of the dead. It was the period for threshing and food preparation for the winter season. People believed that on this day the spirits of the departed visited their kinsmen in search of warmth and cheering as winter approached.

It was the biggest and most significant holiday of the Celtic year. The Celts believed that at the time of Samhain, more so than any other time of the year, the ghosts of the dead were able to mingle with the living, because at Samhain the souls of those who had died during the year traveled into the otherworld. People gathered to sacrifice animals, fruits, and vegetables. They also lit bonfires in honor of the dead, to aid them on their journey, and to keep them away from the living. On that day all kinds of beings were present: ghosts, fairies, and demons – all of them part of the dark and dread.


The Christian Church tried to wipe out “pagan” holidays, such as Samhain, through its missionaries. The Druid festival of Samhain was meant to be replaced forever with Hallowmas, or All Saints’ Day, on November 1. This did not happen, but the status of the traditional Celtic deities diminished substantially. The Christian feast of All Saints was established to honor all saints, known and unknown. Thus, the festival of the pagan lord of the dead became the festival of the Christian dead, in memory of early Christians who died for their beliefs and to honor all those who died in the faith.

Anyway, All Saints Day, otherwise known as All Hallows (hallowed means sanctified or holy), continued the ancient Celtic traditions. The evening prior to the day was the time of the most intense activity, both human and supernatural. People continued to celebrate All Hallows Eve as a time of the wandering dead, but the supernatural beings were now thought to be evil. People continued to please those spirits by setting out gifts of food and drink. Subsequently, All Hallows Eve became Hallow Evening, which became Hallowe’en.

Related Articles:
How did Halloween Come to Germany
Halloween’s Origins and Traditions of Celebration in Germany
Halloween: Trick or Treat?

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