Many Germans have embraced Halloween. Others, especially those of the older generation, believe that Halloween is just some more American hype. Though the commercialism of Halloween does indeed stem from North America, the tradition and celebration itself had its origins in Europe. (see origins of Halloween)
Halloween in Germany
Halloween has gained much popularity in the past decade. In fact this celebration now brings in an astounding 200 million euros a year according to the Stuttgarter Zeitung, the third most commercialized tradition after Christmas and Easter.
The evidence is all there. Walk in some of the larger German department stores and easily find any Halloween themed decoration to match your gruesome tastes. Or go to a costumed Halloween party offered by many night clubs. Have children? Then read through some popular German family magazine on how to throw a terrific, ghoulish party for your kid complete with bat and ghost resembling treats.
So how did Germans get so excited about Halloween? Naturally, the influence of American commercialism and media is key. Further, the presence of American soldiers in the post-war WWII era helped bring about a familiarity of this tradition. Also according to Fachgruppe Karneval im Deutschen Verband der Spielwarenindustrie (DVSI) , because of the cancellation of Fasching in Germany during the Gulf War, the push for Halloween and its associated commercial potential was great in 1994 to make up for Fasching’s commercial financial loss.
Süßes oder Saures
Trick or treating is the aspect of Halloween that is the least observed in Germany and Austria. Only in large metropolitain cities of Germany will you see groups of children actually go door-to-door saying either Süßes oder Saures or Süßes, sonst gibt's Saure as they collect treats from their neighbors. Partly this is due because just eleven days later it is the tradition of children to go door to door on St Martinstag with their lanterns. They sing a song and then they are rewarded with baked goods and sweets.
Halloween specialty stores are becoming increasingly more popular in Germany. One interesting difference between Germany and North America in regards to costumes, is that the Germans seems to indulge much more in scary dress-ups than their American counterparts, even for kids when it comes to Halloween. Perhaps it is due to the many other opportunities throughout the year that children and adults get to dress up for different celebrations, such as Fasching and St. Martinstag that is just around the corner.
Not the dancing type? One of the largest and most popular Halloween venues in Germany is at the 1000 year old fortress ruins in Darmstadt. Since the 1970s it has been known as Burg Frankenstein and apparently is the place to go for all gore aficionados. See more about this haunted castle. Burg Frankenstein
By mid-October, you’ll see some carved out pumpkins on people’s doorsteps in the streets of Germany and Austria, though not as much as in North America. But what you will see and hear about is the famous pumpkin festival in Retz, Austria near Vienna. It’s an entire weekend of fun family entertainment complete with an elaborate Halloween parade that includes floats.
October 31st is also Reformationstag
Yes, Germany and Austria does have another tradition on October 31st that is actually centuries long – Reformationstag. This a special day for Protestants to commemorate Martin Luther’s launch of the Reformation when he nailed those ninety five theses to the catholic castle church in Wittenberg, Germany.
In celebration of Reformationstag and so that it be not completely overshadowed by Halloween, Luther-Bonbons were created several years ago to remind Protestant children the religious significance of this day.