Monday, October 27, 2008


Ready for Halloween at the market

The carved pumpkin lit by a candle is one of Halloween's most prominent symbols in America and they are now popular in Denmark and the other Scandinavian countries. In Europe these lanterns were first carved from a turnip or rutabaga. Generally the traditions around Halloween in Denmark can be compared to the celebrations of the Danish Fastelavn in February where the children dress in imaginative costumes and walk from door to door begging for candy or buns, singing a special Fastelavn's song.

A difference between Halloween in USA and Denmark is that the Danes have a liberal view on this date. Halloween celebrations are either before or after October 31. In USA Halloween on October 31. is a national holiday like Christmas Eve. For practical reasons Allehelgensdag in Denmark is moved to the first Sunday in November - and in the church the names of the dead in the parish in that year is read by the vicar.
Halloween was originally a heathen celebration for the God of Death, Samhain among the Celts in Ireland and Great Britain. According to tradition the boundary between the alive and the deceased dissolved, and the dead became dangerous. Some of the ancient traditions have survived in a modern way, usually the celebrations included decorations with sinister symbols, often referring to death, the living dead, black magic and mythical monsters. The most famous Halloween-creatures in the present pop-culture are ghosts, living skeletons, black cats, witches, zombies, demons and little red devils plus literary figures like Dracula and Frankensteins Monster. Of common use are symbols for harvest and growth , especially pumpkins with a carved face and scare crows which represent both farming and the living dead. Black and orange have become Halloween colours for the night and the dark powers and the pumpkin and the growth of the fields.
The strong death symbols in the American Halloween with skeletons, skulls, bats and blood are not taken from the British celebrations, but inspired by the Catholic All Saint's Day in Mexico, where it is celebrated as the Day of the Dead.
The Halloween traditions have gradually become popular in Denmark and the other Scandinavic countries, especially because of the American mass culture and commercial pressure. The pumpkin-lanterns lit up everywhere in the evening now - and the children are very busy finding out what costume to wear this week-end.

photo October: grethe bachmann, Marketplace, Århus

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