Here in the UK we may think of ghosts and ghouls at Halloween, but across Europe it is actually a very different affair. Many countries see it as a time to welcome the dead and celebrate those who have passed away.
All Saints day is a big festivity in Italy. It is a public holiday and is particularly popular in Sicily. Instead of being a sad or scary day, the dead are celebrated. Children wake up to find toys and sweets left by their dead relatives – but only if they have been good!
Until fairly recently, All Saints Day was the only time of the year when children would receive presents making it bigger than Christmas and Birthdays in many areas.
The Frutta Martorana sweets which children receive are made from almond paste and are shaped to look like fruit. They are a speciality in Palermo, Sicily and simply must be tried if you ever visit at this time of the year!
If you ever get the chance, make sure you go to Kürbisfest a pumpkin festival in Austra. There is a stunning pumpkin parade, parties and a world famous pumpkin harvest.
It is also a local tradition in Austria to welcome your dead relatives by leaving a cake out for them and making sure you have a warm room spare for them to stay.
Noche de los Muertos (night of the dead) is a similar festival celebrated across Spain. Huge bonfires symbolically burn away bad luck and if you are in the north, make sure you try out quernadas (the local firewater) which is a drink of their celtic ancestors.
Don’t forget to hang about for Dia de Todos los Santos (All Saints Day) too which is slightly more traditional. Huge crowds gather around tombs, not to mourn but to celebrate – it is almost like a café!
Germans celebrate Halloween as well as a similar festival every spring time – exactly 6 months after Halloween. The forests and mountains of Germany fill with witches and bonfires. The tradition started when pagans were forced to convert to Christianity. They carried on practicing their pagan faiths secretly in the woods, under the cover of darkness with cloaks and masks to protect their identity.
If you fancy celebrating Halloween in a slightly different way this year – why not hire a car and head to one of these fascinating European countries to experience something new!