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Expat wanderer

Venice Does Halloween


We remember while living in Germany, Hallowe’en was celebrated very differently; people would light candles and visit graves, and on All Saints Day, the following day, would take picnics up the the graves of their loved ones. Now, from store windows, it appears some of the American symbols have become accepted in Venice.

November 15, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, ExPat Life, Germany, Interconnected, Italy, Venice | , | 1 Comment

All Hallow’s Eve

In Kuwait, as in the USA and many other countries, there are mixed feelings about Hallowe’en. As a kid, we all dress up and go from house to house saying “Trick or Treat” and people give us candy. There isn’t anything scary – or spiritual – about it. It’s just a goofy day, not even a day off from school.


When we lived in Germany, All Saints Day (November 1st) gave a whole new, more spiritual meaning to the holiday, which has overlayed an ancient pagan New Year celebration. On All Hallow’s Eve, entire families go to the cemetaries carrying red-glass enclosed candles. The candles are placed on the graves of those who have died and are still remembered. German graveyards are beautiful, with lovely monuments, and flowers on the graves in summer, pine boughs in winter.

BBC religions gives us the modern meaning of Halloween:

With their pumpkin-lanterns and witch costumes there’s many a child who’ll have great fun this evening celebrating Hallowe’en. It was derived originally from an ancient Pagan festival, it has become part of our culture and generally it’s an innocent excuse for people to have a good time.

Literally, of course, it is the eve of All Hallows – a preparation for the observance tomorrow of the Feast of All Hallows or All Saints. That feast gives the assurance that there is a state of being that stretches beyond our life here on this earth – an affirmation of the essential spiritual nature of human life. People are made for more than can be experienced over our lifetime spent in this world.

The Apostle Paul underscores that when he writes to the Ephesians, that the highest role reserved for human beings is, as he puts it, “to rule with Christ in the heavenly world. And God has done this to demonstrate for all time the extraordinary greatness of his grace in the love he showed us in Christ Jesus”.

So this Christian season brings us a comforting reminder that there is a destiny designed for us humans that assures us of a continuing existence, and it’s a promise endorsed by Jesus when he spoke of the many mansions that he has prepared for us. [Hallowe’en assures] us that God’s love stretches far beyond death.

Rev George Loane, former Methodist superintendent on Prayer for the Day, 31 October 2006

More information on Halloween from

Jack-o’-lantern. Originally a turnip, this carved vegetable with a candle inside was used by a poor Irish soul named Jack to light his way as he wandered for eternity, denied entrance to both Heaven and Hell — Heaven because of his habitual stinginess and Hell because he had, while still alive, forced the devil into a pact that would spare Jack from ever going to Hell. Boy, did he live (or rather die) to regret it! The Irish brought this custom to the US in the 1840s but found it more convenient to use pumpkins than their traditional turnip, rutabaga or gourd.

Bobbing for apples. Bobbing for apples on Halloween (the time of the apple harvest) may have been inspired by the Celtic fables about heroes who journeyed across water seeking the magical apple tree on the mythical isle of Avalon. There is a more accepted theory: that the Celts (taking a leaf from the Romans who worshipped Pomona, the goddess of fruit and abundance) played a parlor game on Samhain in which unmarried people would try to bite into an apple in water or on a string; the first to succeed was thought to be the first to marry.

Trick or treating. This resembles the All Soul’s Day practice called “going a-souling” in which poor people would beg door-to-door. In exchange for a gift of soulcakes, the soulers would promise to say a prayer for the dead. It’s possible, though, that the practice developed independently in the US in the 20th century, especially the part where children threaten a trick if they don’t get a treat. (This may have been around the time manufacturers came up with fun-sized candy bars.)

Costumes. The Celts wore disguises, usually made of animal skins, during their Samhain celebrations, possibly to conceal themselves from the spirits who were afoot at the time. So those Catwoman and Spider-man outfits may be most true to the ancient roots of the practice.

Ghost stories. The Celts believed that during Samhain, the boundaries between this world and the otherworld became blurred and the spirits of those who had departed walked the earth. Those beliefs survive to this day in the form of ghost stories and divinations: asking for helpful hints or guides to the future from those who have second sight.

October 31, 2007 Posted by | Community, Cultural, Halloween | , , , | 6 Comments