Halloween creeps into Norway

Similar to lommelykt, the imported tradition of trick-or-treating is gaining ground

Photo: Heidi Håvan Grosch From Nille, a dollar store type of chain in Norway, a display of Halloween decorations. At the local Europris store (Kmart-type store on a smaller scale) in Levanger, Halloween items (not at all Norwegian) and Christmas in October (also not traditionally Norwegian ... Christmas things should come out in December!) were spotted together in early October. What is the country coming to?

Photo: Heidi Håvan Grosch
From Nille, a dollar store type of chain in Norway, a display of Halloween decorations. At the local Europris store (Kmart-type store on a smaller scale) in Levanger, Halloween items (not at all Norwegian) and Christmas in October (also not traditionally Norwegian … Christmas things should come out in December!) were spotted together in early October. What is the country coming to?

M. Michael Brady
Asker, Norway

The celebration of Halloween isn’t big in Norway. But from its first media mention in 2000, it’s now catching on. In 2013, an opinion survey indicated that 13% of households with children would let their kids dress up in costumes and go trick-or-treating in the evening of October 31.

According to cultural feature in the October 31, 2001, edition of Dagbladet (Norway’s third largest newspaper), Halloween had gained a foothold in everyday culture, despite opposition to the celebration of it by Kirkerådet (“Church of Norway National Council”), on the grounds that it was an imported tradition that could be commercialized. The newspaper pooh-poohed the Council’s stand on Halloween. True, Halloween is an imported custom. But then so are Christmas Trees, first mentioned in the Norwegian media in 1822, after first appearing in Sweden in 1741.

Like Christmas Trees, Halloween came to Norway via Sweden, where children had celebrated it since the mid 1990s. The import of the custom of Halloween to Scandinavia was felt to reflect not the commercialization that the Church Council feared, but rather to be part of the ongoing internationalization of culture through television, movies, and the printed media.

Though Halloween is new in Norway, Norwegian children have long known about it through reading the Donald Duck & Co. comic books, the country’s most popular. Each year, Norwegian kids learned of the jack-o’lanterns carved by Donald’s nephews and from 1993 on, of the practice of Trick-or-Treat, translated to Knask eller knep in Norwegian.

Moreover, Halloween has much in common with the traditional Norwegian children’s game of lommelykt i høstmørket, a combination of hide-and-seek and treasure-hunt played as its name implies, with flashlights in the darkness of autumn evenings. So one contemporary explanation of Halloween in Norway is that it’s lommelykt i høstmørket with the addition of costumes and goodies, practiced in the evening of All Saint’s Day.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 30, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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