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German Customs and Traditions
October - Oktober

German Unity Day
Halloween and Erntedankfest

Traditional German Celebrations in October

With German-English Halloween Glossary and Classroom Activities

Holidays/Traditions on this page (Oktober):

  • Oktoberfest (starts in September!)
  • German Unity Day (Tag der Deutschen Einheit)
  • Halloween
  • Erntedankfest (German Thanksgiving)
  • Allerheiligen (All Saints) and other German holidays in Nov.

Also see our Feiertag-Kalender, a calendar of official holidays in German-speaking countries.


If you're looking for Oktoberfest, see September since it starts in that month!

Tag der Deutschen Einheit
Germany's national holiday (German Unity Day) is celebrated on October 3, the date when the reunification treaty was signed between the two Germanys in 1990, following the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. Although the November 9th date might have been more appropriate, an accident of history caused that date to be tainted by the Nazi Kristallnacht anti-Jewish pogrom in 1938. Before 1990 West Germany's national holiday was on May 23, the date of its creation in 1949. In East Germany (also created in 1949) the national day was October 7. More...

It's not really a traditional German celebration, but in recent years Halloween has become increasingly popular in Europe. It is now common to see pumpkin (Kürbis) and jack-o'lantern decorations in Austria and Germany in late October. Probably as a result of Halloween depictions in Hollywood movies and on television, Halloween has become a popular celebration for children and adults in German Europe. It's an American holiday exported from Ireland and now imported back into Europe. The Mardi Gras/Fasching/Karneval aspects of Halloween also have a special appeal to Europeans.

German Halloween banner
Halloween also comes to Germany via Yahoo
Deutschland and other German online services.
The German reads: "The most hair-raising and
gruesome gifts for Halloween..."

Graphic: Yahoo.de

German kids don't usually go trick-or-treating, but Halloween has become a very "cool" party theme for young and old. A Web search in German will turn up many German-language Halloween sites-many of them for party outfitters. More and more German department stores carry Halloween-related items in October. Hamburg's House of Horror specialty store, which opened for business in 1996, does a brisk business around Halloween.

The Austrian town of Retz, not far from Vienna, holds an annual Halloween festival, complete with pumpkins, parties, and a Halloween-Umzug ("Halloween parade"). The region around Retz has also become known for its annual pumpkin harvest.
WEB > Kürbisfest im Retzer Land (in German, with photos: 27. bis 29. Oktober 2006)

There is an old traditional German custom that has much in common with Halloween: Martinstag. The observance of Martinstag (Nov. 11) includes costumes and a lantern procession for children. For more about this German custom, see November Celebrations.

Halloween Graveyard Tour
Here's a fun German activity you can do as a school project or on your own just for fun. This online project will familiarize you with some famous dead Germans and the cemeteries where they rest in peace! > More

The Candy Corn Connection
There is at least one direct German-American Halloween connection. Following the American Civil War, Gustav and Albert Goelitz traveled to Illinois to join an uncle who had emigrated in 1834. After Gustav's death, his two eldest sons revived the candy business that he and Albert had founded. The story goes that the Goelitz Confectionery Co. invented the popular Halloween confection known as candy corn in the 1880s. Records indicate that Goelitz was making candy corn by 1900. That firm's successor, today's Herman Goelitz, Inc. of Fairfield, California, is best known as the maker of Jelly Belly jelly bean candy. (For more about Goelitz, see our Halloween Web links.)

For more on Halloween in German, see our Halloween Glossary, the Halloween Graveyard Tour, and our German Halloween Web links.

The German Thanksgiving celebration is somewhat different from the American version. First of all, it usually takes place at the end of September or the beginning of October (closer to Canada's Thanksgiving in early October). It is also not a national holiday, but more of a religious celebration with roots in the rural harvest festivals of old. The mostly Protestant German Erntedankfest observance dates back to around 1770. For more about Thanksgiving, Germany's Erntedankfest and Thanksgiving vocabulary, see this article: Erntedankfest: Thanksgiving in Germany.

MORE > Halloween Graveyard Tour (a FUN class project!)

NEXT > November (Allerheiligen, Martinstag, Erntedankfest)

More Customs and Traditions
A month-by-month guide to German celebrations.

More Glossaries
English-German glossaries on a variety of topics, from your Guide.

Wort des Tages
What's today's German word of the day? From your Guide.

NEXT > November (Martinstag, Thanksgiving)

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