Halloween Traditions in Europe

Pumpkin carving at Halloween

Halloween is celebrated in different ways in different countries all over the world. Some places go all out, with costume parties, parades, trick or treating, and practical jokes; other places take a more subdued approach to this holiday, and spend time in peaceful reflection, remembering loved ones they have lost. In the UK, Halloween traditions have become more and more similar to those in America. We dress our kids up in spooky costumes, and go from house to house trick or treating and gathering sweets and chocolate. Either that or we dress up ourselves, splash on the obligatory fake blood, and go out to themed nights with our friends, or perhaps exhibit our creative talents with a spot of pumpkin carving. If you fancy something a little bit different this year, why not visit our neighbours across the Channel to celebrate Europe's Halloween traditions!

 Halloween themed sweets are commonly given out to kids
Halloween themed sweets are commonly given out to kids


In Austria, over the week from 30th October to 8th November, locals celebrate something called Seleenwoche, or All Soul's Week. Every night before going to bed, an offering of bread and water is left on a table by a lit lamp to welcome the souls of their beloved dead, as it is believed that at this time of year the veil between our world and the next is lifted.

On 1st November, All Saint's Day, it is believed that the souls of the dead gather in waiting, and when the church bells ring at noon, they are released. Austrian families get together on this day to walk with lanterns through cemeteries to the graves of their loved ones, where they leave the lanterns in order to guide the spirits back to the other side. The following day, there is a mass held in the Catholic churches to remember the dead and martyrs of the faith, and candles are lit in their memory.

 It's traditional to visit the graves of your loved ones at this time of year
It's traditional to visit the graves of your loved ones at this time of year


Halloween in France isn't traditionally celebrated with carved pumpkins and trick or treating. But if you look back to the medieval days of continental Europe, you will find something that quite closely resembles modern-day costume parties.

A popular belief across Christian Europe at the time, and particularly in France, was that for one night of the year, all of the dead across the world would rise up from their graves and join in a wild, raucous carnival. This was known as the danse macabre, and it was thought to take place on the night of Halloween, or All Hallows' Eve as it was once known; the festival was to remind people that all earthly things one day must end. On the night of Halloween, villagers would gather for a candlelit vigil throughout the night, and children would dress up to enact the danse macabre in costume.


These days, the celebrations around Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, are most commonly associated with Mexico. As with similar festivals across the Christian world, this time of year is marked to honour lost friends and relatives, and to remember them and pray for their souls. The Festival traditionally lasts three days, from 31st October until 2nd November, and it's this final day that is the famous Day of the Dead.

In Mexico, there are brightly coloured, vibrant parades held all across the country, honouring the dead with sugar skulls, marigolds and the favourite foods of the deceased. In Spain, there are similar festivals and parades around the country, culminating at the end of the day with people gathering in cemeteries to pray over the graves of their families, leaving flowers, candles or other offerings.

Visiting Europe with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

If you've been left feeling inspired to visit Europe and discover more about the many different cultures across the continent, there's no easier way to get there than with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. Crossing the Channel takes just 35 minutes, and the whole of Europe is easily accessible from our Calais terminal - safe travels and happy Halloween!

Photo Credits:
Pumpkin carving © Nomadic Lass
Visit to the graves ©micadew
Sweets © Jamal Fanaian

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