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Halloween magic fails to bewitch Sweden

David Landes · 29 Oct 2010, 09:13

Published: 29 Oct 2010 09:13 GMT+02:00

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In addition, 60 percent of Swedes don’t plan to buy anything special for Halloween this year, a study carried out by the Swedish Trade Federation (Svensk Handel) reveals.

The study, based on responses from 1,000 people, found that 46 percent of shop owners believe Halloween’s importance has decreased, while only 10 percent thought the holiday’s importance had increased.

“Even if we accept that Halloween isn’t quite as hyped as before, there are still a lot of Halloween-themed shop windows with black and orange decorations,” said the Trade Federation’s Meta Troell in a statement.

The survey also revealed that while many Swedes feel that shops have more Halloween-themed items on offer, most plan to spend less than 100 kronor ($15) on Halloween-related products.

According to Troell, one of the factors working against a continued rise in Halloween’s popularity is its proximity to All Saints (Allhelgonahelg), a time when Swedes remember the passing of their loved ones.

While Halloween has been celebrated in some corners of Sweden since the 1950s, the holiday’s popularity surged in the early 1990s due in part to efforts by the Hard Rock Café and Butterick’s party supply and costume store in Stockholm.

Since then, Halloween’s popularity has grown steadily, although growth has leveled off in recent years.

Monica Hultgren of the Swedish department store chain Åhlen’s told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper that interest in Halloween has declined since 2005.

“It doesn’t seem as important anymore,” she said.

“Both Valentine’s Day and Halloween, which are foreign traditions, have meant less for us. On the other hand, Christmas and Easter are increasing. The week before Halloween we sell more Christmas items than Halloween decorations.”

Story continues below…

According to the Trade Federation, sales of pumpkins, costumes, and decorations is down this year.

One exception to the downward trend, however, is Butterick’s, which has seen October and November sales figures rise 7 to 8 percent compared to the same period in 2003, according DN.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

10:08 October 29, 2010 by Shazzer
The entire POINT of Halloween is its proximity to All Saint's Day. I think the reason it hasn't caught on here is that Swedes always try to move it to some date other than October 31. Once you do that, it's NO LONGER HALLOWEEN.
10:40 October 29, 2010 by Streja
Halloween isn't Swedish Shazzer. Why isn't your country celebrating Easter with kids dressed up as witches?

I think that's the reason, Sweden already has dress up holidays like Easter. Even Christmas is dress up more than in anglo-saxon culture. We dress up as jultomten, pepparkaksgubbar and then Lucia. How many costumes are we supposed to put on? :)
10:41 October 29, 2010 by foxpur
I was thinking much the same... the date is THE important factor but many Swedes seem unclean on the concept...

"The supposedly origin of Halloween was a night when all your dead relatives and neighbors came back and you had to reward them or they would play tricks on you and keep coming back." - from a conversation I had with my mother
11:22 October 29, 2010 by roaringchicken92
Good point, #1. it's All Hallows Evening, or Hallow E'en, which is the start of the All Saints Day holiday.

And good job, Sweden! I never understood the appeal of Halloween for adults; it's a special day just for kids. As an adult, buying into the hype that has become Halloween is similar to getting excited about Christmas because you expect to get a bunch of toys.
11:22 October 29, 2010 by Åskar
Halloween is an American idiocy that a merchant introduced in Sweden some 15 years ago wanting to make money. I think it's a sign of sanity that Sweden hasn't fallen for it.

For what it's worth, Sweden has a long tradition of celebrating All Hallows Day, so there really is no need for dressing up like an idiot the day before on All Hallows Eve.
11:27 October 29, 2010 by Kanedaa
It's only important to remember Halloween because Michael Myers comes out to get you!
12:31 October 29, 2010 by Beavis
Halloween is not american!!! It is a celtic pagean festival which originated from Ireland and Scotland ! As with most Christian holidays (Easter and Christams) the Christians made a day of their own to take away any pagan infulence (ie all Hallows eve)
12:57 October 29, 2010 by Åskar

I am very aware of the Celtic origin, but it came to Sweden via USA.
13:29 October 29, 2010 by ptenimrod
and like a lot of stuff brought to america from other counties and then exported it is always WRONG.

it began in ireland before the scotish followed and it is to keep away the evil spirits and deaths scythe, which is no longer cutting crops in the field. this is traditionally done by lighting a bonfire to symbolize a man made sun and power over darkness and death.
13:37 October 29, 2010 by Amber Dawn
I grew up celebrating Halloween in the States and this is my first in Sweden. I am used to weeks of decorations and costumes and huge bowls of candy to give to all the kids in the neighborhood. The only thing I have seen here is a small stand of costumes in Coop and a cake in the bakery window. My wife brought home a shiny orange pumpkin yesterday and we carved it last night. Sure, we're the only people around with one, but it made me feel a little closer to home. :)
14:01 October 29, 2010 by Shazzer
@Streja Because witches would scare off the Easter Bunny, obviously. ;^P Besides, Easter is hardly a fair comparison since Swedes do not seem driven to move it to a different day. (Though it would not surprise me if they tried.)
14:09 October 29, 2010 by visitorfromnowhere
OK, OK, hold on a minute. I peruse The Weekly but have refrained from commenting. Until now!! I do not deny that Halloween is Celtic in origin, nor that it came to Sweden via the US, nor that children enjoy it more than adults, nor that people try to make money from it, nor that it may not be a good fit for Sweden because of the date. BUT, BUT, BUT, it is, simply put, arguably the best holiday there is. Here are the reasons:

1) It is not under the control of either the state or organized religion to tell you its meaning.

2) You are free to choose your costume to step outside your skin for a night. Last year I went as a crusader. Fun to stick my sword in everybody's chest and demand to know "Are you a man of God?" In university, I went as the very distinctive local pizza delivery man and won a prize for most innovative.

3) Because you have to choose a costume, you learn a lot about your friends--who has a good imagination and who is just lame.

4) You get to meet other interesting characters who could be from anywhere in space and time. Last year, I got to meet Marie Antoinette who was very charming actually.

5) The costumes make it super super easy to strike up conversations with strangers.

6) You can drink and dance.

There are very very few holidays that rival Halloween. I'd like to see someone argue for an alternative. The only possible exception is Carnival. They got better music. N.B, nobody in this thread has argued for their favorite holiday. The reason for that pretty clearly is that all the holidays they celebrate are lameo compared to Halloween. Really, oh oracles of The Weekly, tell us your favorite holiday and why you think it is so great before you go dismissing Halloween. I'll be here all day itching for a fight! I won't have Halloween belittled like this.
14:26 October 29, 2010 by Puffin
Halloween is pretty new in Sweden - until around 10 years ago hardly anyone did anything - since then the US style Halloween has been imported by the younger generation but tends to be more organised events such as parties/school disco etc rather than people out on the street

Customs such as trick-or treat is not really an autumn tradition in Sweden and remains unsual in many areas - Swedes do this at Easter with the Påskkärring tradition (Easter witches)

It's also a time where in some areas you need to be culturally sensitive as some Swedes find Halloween VERY offensive as there is sometimes a clash with the Swedish Alla Helgon/All Saints Day holiday which is a time for remembering the dead and where Swedes attend church and visit graveyards to light candles. If you drive to any Swedish graveyeard on Alla Helgon you will find 100s of people and the whole cemetry lit up with grave candles

Although All Saints Day is technically the November 1 it is held on the first Saturday in November - so not such a problem this year as it falls a week after Halloween. However in some years where Halloween has fallen on a Thursday/Friday and people hold parties and events on the Saturday.

I know that there are some Swedes who have been offended by people joking around dacing in costumes and in skeleton outfits on a day when Swedish tradition remembers the dead in your family, visit graves and get together with their families for a day of quiet contemplation- so something to bear in mind.
15:14 October 29, 2010 by Swedesmith
@vistor Halloween is ok, but I think the most under-rated holiday is Ground Hog's Day.
15:56 October 29, 2010 by calebian22
Halloween is about candy to most celebrants. Candy day already exists in Sweden, every Saturday. No wonder it is not popular here. There is no need.
16:25 October 29, 2010 by Åskar
No Puffin, Halloween was not imported "by the younger generation". It was imported by the owner of the Buttericks novelty store who saw it as an opportunity to make money.
16:54 October 29, 2010 by visitorfromnowhere
@calebian22 Nah, except for the very youngest kids, the candy is not central. And for adults it plays no role whatsoever. It is about coming up with a good costume. Couples will work out something together, etc.
17:34 October 29, 2010 by facetedjewel
Odd that the subjects of Halloween and chopped off foreskin should come up on the same day . . . both are a little ghoulish, more than foolish.

Kids can only get so enthusiatic about Halloween; that market leveled off long ago in the U.S. It has been among adults that Halloween has become more popular. We do not have several holidays for costuming - really, just this one. An opportunity to mock a politician, emulate a superhero, festoon in pun form, or just let out your 'inner squirrel' to run around in the moonlight. I've been reading The Local for two years. I rather thought Swedes approved of cutting lose once in a while, of getting your 'pagan on'. This figures heavily among my reasons for being fond of the culture, the people and the very land itself. But then, I was raised in the Pacific Northwest. Scandanavia feels a little like home.

For some insight into how passionately some Americans feel about their Halloween heydays, go to www.boingboing.net, and search for 'The Candy Heirarchy', a thread from last week. This blog is one of my favorite playgrounds. The scope of nerdy fun is international, as are the participants. I had no idea so many adult children could feel so strongly about candy! . . . but I have not yet witnessed fika.
17:35 October 29, 2010 by calebian22

Couples have been dressing up in costumes forever. It's called roleplay. No holiday required. ;-) I stand by my candy assertion.
17:36 October 29, 2010 by rybo1
Halloween is a retarded celebration. We have no need of this nonsense as we have no need for Valentines Day. Just another false, corporate, semi-holiday to squeeze more money out of the people.
17:43 October 29, 2010 by Earandur Lissesul
To someone who doesn't follow or practice any of the major religions, Samhain (Halloween 31st Oct-1st Nov) is an important day. That's all I have to say on the matter.
18:19 October 29, 2010 by Beavis
I guess the Americans are also responsible for bringing St Patricks day celebrations to Sweden too?
18:51 October 29, 2010 by Nemesis
Samhain has always been an important day in European celebrations for thousands of years.

Samhain should be fixed as the night of 31st October to 1st November and made a holiday of two days, to allow appropiate celebrations of an ancient European tradition.
19:07 October 29, 2010 by Earandur Lissesul

Right on the first count, two days for celebrations would be nice.
21:42 October 29, 2010 by visitorfromnowhere
@rybo1 I completely agree about Valentines Day. But the idea that Halloween is corporate is just incorrect. Most people design their own costumes and when they do buy something for it, it is typically from a second hand store. Indeed, you usually get quite a few demerits for buying a costume. It is arguably one of the least corporate holidays. Even when you are a kid, this is true. For most teenagers, the most popular costume is to go as a bum. You ask mom for the oldest clothes, rip them up and use cork ash to give yourself a good beard. Nothing corporate about that.

Again, I'm not arguing that it is appropriate for Sweden. But objectively, it is the best.
21:45 October 29, 2010 by facetedjewel
I like the antenna on the left pumpkin. Ray Walston ('My Favorite Martian') meets 'Pumpkinhead' (a 1988 supernatural horror film).
21:54 October 29, 2010 by visitorfromnowhere
@facetedjewel I just noticed. Man those are some ugly Jack O' Lanterns. And what is with the middle finger and the knife? I guess the knife might be ok, but the finger? Halloween is about scary surprises, not telling people off.
00:56 October 30, 2010 by mikewhite
Anyway, traditionally shouldn't they be turnip lanterns ?
02:22 October 30, 2010 by facetedjewel
Hi, visitorfromnowhere, enjoyed your comments on Halloween! Also Puffin's, in that it offered a Swedish view of this holiday and deserves respect. I'm just a stranger here myself. Thanks, Puffin! The Grumpy Old Men's group above is right, of course. Most of what we think of as holiday traditions have been invented by retailers or corporations to make money. I liked your reply that buying a costume would be cheating; it's about using your imagination and wit.
04:07 October 30, 2010 by Beavis
Your right its all about selling.. Lets get rid of midsummer too, thats just an excuse to sell more snapps, poles to dance around and to boost herring sales!Cmon.. How can retailers make more money on Halloween than midsummer?? It all about making your own costume and using your imagination. Halloween paries are THE BEST Ive ever been to. Strangers talking to each other (even in Swe!) Last one I was at one guy dressed up as a shower,brougt the whole thing with him to the party! I say dump Chritmas (A truly commercialised religious nightmare!) and replace it with Halloween.
04:56 October 30, 2010 by Vetinari
Allhelgonafton is the Swedish version of the All Hallows eve tradition. Just like Christmas, it is celebrated in different ways on different days in different countries. The more vague the original holiday was the more it will differ.

The whole 'dress up, trick-or-treat, orange-and-black' idea is the American version, which is seen as a tacked on, forced holiday by Swedes. Whats next? Making us celebrate Thanksgiving? The fourth of July?

That Halloween is not a 'corporate' event because many make their own costume is more or less laughable. There are entire chains of stores popping up for a few weeks before Halloween just to shut down immediately afterwards. Halloween is a huge profit maker for the involved companies since it makes a lot of people buy stuff they would never have bought otherwise.
12:12 October 30, 2010 by visitorfromnowhere
@Vetinari. I don't think that Swedes should celebrate Halloween. If it doesn't fit for them and they think that they have to wear orange an black (who is spreading this Halloween disinfo??) and go trick or treating, then they are better off without it. And Halloween is better off without Sweden. Now, as I said above, I'm not denying that people try to make money off it. But I'm sure that the corporate revenues for Christmas and Easter are far greater. Also if you do some research online, you will find that because people stay home on Halloween, that other corporations, such as hotels, lose money on Halloween. Lastly, because The Local is mostly read by adults, I addressed the issue of Halloween for adults. The stores that you are referring to cater mostly to children with lazy parents. I have gone to at least a dozen Halloween parties as an adult and I can testify that 98% of the costumes are made and not purchased. I'm sorry if that doesn't fit into your conceptual scheme of Halloween, but it really is true. And it is safe to say that I know a lot more about Halloween than you do. So stick to Holidays that you really know something about!
15:11 October 30, 2010 by Beavis
Please read the wiki and educate yourself Vetinari...


This is not an American thing!!! Get it into your head, which seems to be filled with some movies you saw (which are the American thing!)
16:21 October 30, 2010 by swedeb
Who cares who makes money off it or how much they make. If it is something I enjoy, then I'll do it.
20:48 October 30, 2010 by Vetinari
@visitorfromnowhere: Just because it is not the biggest moneymaking holiday does not mean it is not a money making holiday. That some industries suffer because of it goes for any holiday.

As for what I meant with the orange and black is that those two colors are very much connected to the American version of celebrating Halloween. I thought I made that abundantly clear.

So what you are saying is that costumes like sexy waitress, sexy french maid, sexy robin, sexy ninja turtle etc, is for kids? Or the costumes available at Ambiance (a sex store) is for kids? Sorry Visitor, these stores cater very much to adults as well. The adult parties (disregarding college parties) I have been to, in Cleveland Ohio, have featured a lot more bought costumes than home made, especially for females. In fact, the only people I have seen with serious home made costumes are little kids (throwing on a black T shirt and a pair of aviators and claiming to be Johnny Bravo is just lazy, not a real costume).

@ Beavis: Please go back and read my post again. I am afraid it went completely over your head. Make special notice of my first two paragraphs
22:49 October 30, 2010 by Abbot
Oh pooh, pooh. Are some ultra-nationalists having a tiff over the American version of Halloween 'invading' their country? Are the inferiority complexes flaring up again, boys?
01:03 October 31, 2010 by visitorfromnowhere
@Vetinari Well, you obviously went to a lame Halloween party. Where was it again? Oh, right, Cleveland. I wouldn't admit to that. It really really hurts your case. And your list of costumes? Yes, the ninja is for kids! And when people go as a French maid, they usually don't get it at outfit at a store.

@Abbot. I'm not sure what is flaring up. Bad history, bad understanding of Halloween, the Swedish nationalism of those who spend too much time in Cleveland.
01:23 October 31, 2010 by kenny8076
åskar your a bit of a drama queen....... kids dressing up as clowns and superman does not deserve the title as idiots!! whats wrong with one fun day for kids to dress up as their favorite super hero or princess and trick or treat for candy?!?! jesus relax you anti-American conspiracy theorist!!!!
10:24 October 31, 2010 by hanan
@ Rybo, "squeeze money out of the people"? No money gets squeezed out from people who don't want to be squeezed. If a person doesn't get into Halloween, there is no law saying they have to participate.

That includes you, vet, no one is "making" you celebrate Halloween. That's part of the free market, if you sell something people want, you can be successful and pursue a better life. If they aren't interested, better luck with the next idea.

Seems to me some people here use this article (and others like it) to vent their feeble anti-American whinges. Your claims of "invasion" are laughable, especially when it is clearly stated most Swedes aren't interested. And like the free market in America, Swedish vendors can re-focus on product or service in demand. If they don't, it's not America's or Halloween's fault. :P
10:47 October 31, 2010 by JulieLou40
I couldn't give a toss about Halloween. It's a stupid, "nothing" day when the only people you will see doing anything are americans.
13:21 October 31, 2010 by visitorfromnowhere
@JulieLou40 Incorrect. Canadians love it. My friend just told me that in London, they are going crazy for three days.

We should start a movement to ban Halloween in Sweden since Halloween needs Sweden even less than Sweden needs Halloween.
17:00 October 31, 2010 by Beavis
@Vetinari I did read.. but you just dont get it there is no difference between how Americans celebrare Halloween than what is traditional, the only difference is a string of 1980s horror movies..you know not what you talk about!
22:08 October 31, 2010 by neowak
i cant believe to see so many comments about the stupid halloween... appalling...
02:41 November 1, 2010 by visitorfromnowhere
@neowak What is appalling is your reasoning and your grammar. If you don't like the discussion don't join. You don't like to see so many comments, but you add one yourself. Haha. So now we find that not only is the holiday objectionable, but discussion of it is also.
02:58 November 1, 2010 by Beavis
"The whole 'dress up, trick-or-treat, orange-and-black' idea is the American version"...No its not, thats the way it was celebrated before USA even existed!! For some reason most Swedes seem to have been brainwashed into thinking Halloween is an American thing..possible through mis-education from the red machine at schools
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