Halloween and All Saints’ Day are both celebrated in Sweden, let’s look at the differences. Halloween – a spooky tradition that now haunts Sweden alongside the rest of the world, and All Saints Day – a day of remembrance of those who have passed on. Both are full of ghosts, but one sports costumes and candy and the other light and reminiscence.
Although many of us may enjoy the cozy (mysig in Swedish) feels of autumn, the crisp air, the beautiful foliage, the candles starting to crop up in everyone’s windows, there are two events that occur at the end October and beginning of November that can really add to the coziness: Halloween and All Saints’ Day.
Although Halloween has only more recently been widely celebrated in Sweden and throughout Europe, Swedes and non-Swedes alike have been more readily embracing the spookiness and candy-ness of Halloween since the ‘90s and (mainly) kids participate in the celebrations today. Kids dress up in costumes (mainly simple witches and other ghostly characters) and walk around their neighborhoods saying “bus eller godis” (trick or treat) and ask for candy. Teenagers are now also taking up the mantle and elevate their dress-up to more intricate costumes and go to parties or events. Adults in Sweden have the option to attend parties, events, parades, etc. as well, as some restaurants and establishments will decorate for Halloween and host events.
You will also find the theme of Halloween in the plockgodis (picking candy) aisles – behold many strange creatures and characters!
Local grocery stores often put up displays of pumpkins and other Halloween items such as masks, skeletons, and other fun items prior to Halloween.
Coinciding with Autumn break for many schools, Halloween (October 31st) and All Saints Day (November 1st) are often celebrated while children are at home.
Nowadays, it is a bit more common for pumpkin patches (självplock – choose yourself) to crop up at farms that typically sell other fruits and vegetables throughout the year, although this trend is still quite small and not every farm sells pumpkins that you can pick yourself.
Pumpkin Patches in Sweden
Choosing and carving your own pumpkin is a time honored tradition in many cultures that Sweden has caught on to. Not only do many grocery stores sell pumpkins these days, (to decorate or eat, you decide) but now many farms are setting up activities for the entire family and growing pumpkins in their fields (patches) in the autumn.
The nearest patch to Stockholm is Thorslunda, about 45 minutes outside of the city by car. You can also get there by bus. They have information on how to get to them on their website (information in Swedish). They also have a café that serves lunch and “fika”.
- In Southern Sweden, you can pick pumpkins at Söderköpingsbonden. They also have tractor rides for the kids, pigs, and a strawberry field.
- In Malmö, pick your pumpkins and corn at Slattvikgård.
- In Södertälje, you can find a pumpkin patch and many other items to choose yourself at Trädgårn Södertälje.
Halloween Events in 2023
There are plenty of halloween events around Sweden to keep you spookily entertained. Here are a few from some of the major cities in Sweden. But just google Halloween + evenemang + the name of your city or Allhelgona + evenemang + the name of your city and you will find something more local.
If you fancy an extensive parade to enjoy with the family, Stockholm hosts the Shockholm Halloween Parade, this year taking place on November 4, 2023.
Gamla Stan hosts ghost tours all year, but around Halloween they pull out all the stops to bring an even ghostlier walk. Tours are in English and Swedish, so take a look for on their website before booking.
You can also journey through Gröna Lund amusement park to celebrate Halloween where they host special Halloween themed evenings.
Skansen, the open air museum located near Gröna Lund, hosts some fun fall activities and has a lot to do for the entire family during autumn break.
Drottningholm Slottsteater hosts a haunted theater show during the autumn holidays this year in their usually closed theatre. You book tickets on their website.
In Gothenburg, there are various activities throughout the city during autumn break. Liseberg, the amusement park, decorates for Halloween and has activities for the entire family. The Culture Center puts on shows, and many more events for young, old, and in between.
What is All Saints’ Day and how is it celebrated?
All Saints’ Day is the day to remember passed loved ones and has religious basis dating back to the 7th century. In Sweden on November 1st, many will make their way to Skogskyrkogården, an extensive cemetery and UNESCO World Heritage site. Families gather around graves of those they wish to remember and light candles. Others attend church service in one of the five chapels on the cemetery grounds. Although it is no longer seen as a religious affair, it was once considered a hallowed day, which is why All Saints’ Day is a red day (röd dag) in Sweden.
By November 1st, Sweden can already be quite dark. But the numerous candles surrounding the gravesites up and down the entire cemetery at Skogskyrkogården is a serene sight. Skogskyrkogården is open to the public and the cemetery, aglow with candlelight, is a peaceful place to visit. If you choose to walk the paths of the cemetery, you are sure to see many families taking part in the traditions of reminiscence.
Other traditions outside of lighting candles at the cemetery include wreath making. They are made from evergreen branches that can be laid on gravesites. The wreaths are usually made to fit around candles and can also be decorated by items that have specific importance. The circular wreath is said to symbolize eternity and lighting candles are meant for remembrance.
Where do these celebrations for Halloween and All Saints’ Day in Sweden come from?
Modern day Halloween comes from Celtic traditions, where evil spirits were warded off by lighting bonfires and wearing costumes on Samhain (October 31st). It is said that the veil between the living and the dead is the thinnest on this night. This adds a layer of spook to Halloween celebrations and explains the traditions on November 1st, when All Saint’s Day (Alla helgons dag) is celebrated in Sweden. All Saints Day, also called All Hallow’s Day or All Souls Day, celebrates those that have passed on. They were said to visit family members during the Samhain celebrations the evening before (or All Hallow’s Eve).
Influence from other cultures on Halloween and All Saints’ Day in Sweden
Cultures and traditions often go beyond their physical borders – the same is true of Halloween and All Saints’ Day celebrations. Let’s delve into the influential cultures that have likely shaped Sweden’s celebrations today.
The US is a long way away from the simplicity of Samhain. Ghosts are now warded off by lighting a “bonfire” no bigger than the average jack-o-lantern with a tea light candle. But Halloween is often celebrated by child and adult alike. In the US, Halloween is treated as an important event every year. Children go trick-or-treating (or dress up in various costumes and ask the neighbors for candy) as soon as it’s dark out as well as during school hours. Adults partake in similar cosplay but go searching for alcohol instead of (or alongside) candy. Houses are decorated with pumpkins, spider webs, spooky characters, and fake grave stones. Neighbors often camp out on their front lawn dressed as their favorite characters to hand out giant candy bars. Pumpkin patches and haunted hayrides are a common occurrence and you can find them wherever there is a field (or a farm!).
Day of the Dead in Mexico
Mexico celebrates the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) on November 1st. They make offerings (ofrendas) to their family members who have passed on. These can include favorite foods, drinks, pictures, and cut marigolds. This tradition celebrates their loved one’s memory and often includes lighting candles by their gravestones.
American culture brings an over-the-top-ness to Halloween including political statements and giant skeletons. Swedish festivities are usually more simple but still influenced by the US Halloween culture. There is also a similarity to Mexican traditions in Sweden. Many Swedes journey to the cemetery (kyrkogården) to light a candle and remember their loved ones on All Saints’ Day.
Autumn in Sweden comes on quickly and moves just as quickly into winter. But in its midst are fun celebrations for Halloween and remembrance of those who came before during All Saints’ Day.
How do you plan to celebrate Halloween and All Saints’ Day? Do you have similar traditions where you are from? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear from you!