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Halloween vs All Saints Day: How to celebrate in Sweden

The Local Sweden
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Halloween vs All Saints Day: How to celebrate in Sweden
Halloween pumpkin decorations. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

When do Swedish children go trick or treating, and why isn't it always on October 31st as Halloween tradition dictates?


Halloween, an American tradition becoming increasingly popular in Sweden, is extremely different from the Swedish tradition of All Saints.

But more and more Swedes are choosing to celebrate both, instead of choosing. So what exactly is the difference?

All Saints

All Saints, Allhelgonahelg, is when every graveyard in Sweden bathes in the glow of hundreds of flickering candles lit by Swedes coming to remember their dead. This year it is Saturday, November 4th.

Just as Midsummer celebrates the fullness of Sweden's outdoors and Lucia with its cosiness warms the dark of winter, All Saints plays an important role in the Swedish calendar.

As dusk falls on Saturday, All Saints Day, Swedes stream towards the country's graveyards armed with candles, matches, wreaths and flowers for the graves of their loved ones.


The beauty of the candlelight blended with a soothing melancholy creates an emotionally-charged atmosphere. Small rural churchyards are visible across fields, dotted with flecks of golden light, while in towns and cities people murmur hushed greetings to those visiting neighbouring graves.

It is an awe-inspiring sight, but here and there real mourners, perhaps remembering a loved one for the first time, are a reminder of the day's meaning.

Despite the ancient origins of the festival itself, the tradition of lighting a candle is relatively recent. It began only in the early 1900s and it was not until after the Second World War that it became a national activity.

Today, it is more popular than ever, perhaps reflecting a desire among Swedes to maintain their ties with the past in a fast-changing world.



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, a store selling party supplies and costumes.

Halloween's popularity has just grown and grown.

For years Swedes only dressed up in "scary" outfits on Halloween, but as times goes by the definition of Halloween becomes broader, and it's becoming much more like the US, where people dress up as anything and everything.

Many clubs and pubs celebrate Halloween, though Swedes aren't too picky about the date. Halloween is always on October 31st, but many Swedes celebrate on the weekend before or the weekend after. So you may get children trick or treating on the Saturday of All Saints.

The custom of trick or treating is called bus eller godis in Swedish, and there's growing consensus that children should only knock on doors which have some kind of Halloween decorations outside, even if it's just a pumpkin on the doorstep, and respect those who do not wish to take part.

But in short, there's really no reason to just celebrate one or the other. Swedes love to celebrate, and you, too, can celebrate both! Dress up and party on Halloween, and carve out a pumpkin. And on Saturday, take a walk outside and light a candle at a graveyard.

And enjoy the beginning of winter... for Halloween and All Saints mark the end of autumn and the beginning of the dark season. 


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