Barneblad: Celebrate Norsk (!) Halloween
A monthly feature to share with kids and grandkids
Brought to you by Lori Ann Reinhall
Most Norwegian Americans will be fast to say that Halloween is not a Norwegian holiday—and they are right—well, almost right…
Halloween or “All Hallows’ Eve” is thought to have originated in ancient times in England, Scotland, and Ireland. Back in those days, it was believed that on the last night of October, the spirits of the dead roamed the Earth. These ghosts were dangerous and could destroy the autumn harvest. To ward off the evil spirits before the start of the winter season, people would set fires on hilltops. They put on costumes, so they wouldn’t be recognized by the ghosts, and they carved scary-looking faces into turnips to frighten off the evil spirits.
In the Christian church, All Hallows’ Eve is the night before All Saints’ Day, the first day of November when the Christian saints and martyrs are honored. In the early days, poor children began to go door-to-door for food with the promise that they would pray for the dead on All Saints’ Day. In Norway it is called allehelgensdag and has been a holiday since Christian times. It is followed by All Souls’ Day, allesjelersdag in Norway, when the souls of the dead are remembered.
But Halloween? While it has its origins in the old pagan festivals, it came to Norway via America. Costumes, trick-or-treating, and jack-o’-lanterns all have their origins in the customs and beliefs of the Old World, but in the New World, they turned into pure fun. Eventually, other beliefs about witches and black cats were thrown into the mix, and the first haunted houses were decorated to entertain children and to make money. Costumes seem to get more and more elaborate with time. The excitement is endless: in America, Halloween is still one of the most anticipated days of the year.
With modern travel and the Internet, it’s hard to keep so much fun secret. About 20 years ago, Halloween took over in Norway and today is celebrated in most families. But exactly how is it done, Norwegian style?
In Norway, you may be greeted by spiderwebs and pumpkins when you enter a restaurant or café, and shelves will be filled with a large variety of goodies. Even bestefar and bestemor look forward to special treats with their coffee during the special time of the year.
Out and about town, there are costume parties for children—the scarier the better—with prizes for the best ones. Private house parties are very popular, and many kindergartens and schools have their own Halloween celebrations. The partying can go on for days, as happy children run through the streets, shouting “trick-or-treat”—in English!
But one thing is important: everyone must be on their best behavior for Halloween. It is never acceptable to be unruly, and parents and teachers are sure to go over the “Halloween rules” with their kids. Just as on any other day of the year, respect for others is important and necessary so everyone can enjoy the celebration.
In Norway, Halloween is an American import. Here in America, we celebrate in much the same way, and as Norwegian Americans, it’s a great opportunity to dress up as—you guessed it—a Norwegian! Why not dress up as a Viking, a huldra (all you need is a tail), or a big scary troll? Whatever you do, use your imagination and have fun, and wherever you are, have a happy, happy Halloween!
This article originally appeared in the October 19, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.