Saturday, November 2, 2013

Halloween in Europe

by Nicki Halenza and Gosia Labno

Halloween can be traced back to a festival called Samhain, which was an ancient Celtic celebration in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and northern France. This festival was celebrated on November 1 each year because it marked the change in seasons from warm summer to dreary winter - which also happened to be a time of year that many people died. Supposedly, the Celts believed that the night before, on October 31, the barrier that separated the living and the dead was lifted, and that ghosts would return to Earth. Eventually, this night would be called All-Hollows Eve and later, Halloween. Once Europeans started to migrate over to the United States, their traditions began to morph into the American version we celebrate today.

Nowadays, the holiday is widely celebrated in the United States, but its idea is spreading to other parts of the world. Although most children across continental Europe do not trick-or-treat, since the 1990s the practice of dressing up in costumes has become more common. In France, Halloween is celebrated by young children but is less fashionable for teenagers and young adults. If children trick-or-treat, they do so in smaller towns where it is safer and easier, since the Parisian apartment buildings complicate the activity.

“For us, the holiday has no cultural significance. It is just a way for businesses to make money,” said Lucie Valet, a French student currently studying abroad at the University of Illinois.

Schools across Europe host parties and parades, as well as award prizes to the best costumes. College-aged students sometimes host Halloween parties where dressing up is encouraged but is not universal. In the United Kingdom, American Halloween practices are much more common. Young children go trick-or-treating and play games like bobbing for apples. Other American cultural significations of Halloween, such as watching scary movies, carving pumpkins and decorating homes have traveled across the Atlantic but all in all, the holiday remains mostly an American one.


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