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The 31 October is very well known throughout the USA because it is Halloween – one of the most important holidays in the USA. The 31 October is also a holiday in Germany but unlike Americans we Germans celebrate, first of all, the Reformationstag (Reformation Day), which is a Protestant holiday.
According to tradition, the Mönch (monk) Martin Luther had posted up Ninety-Five Theses – which made Ablass (indulgence) and Buße (repentance) subjects of discussion – against the gate of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg in 1517, one day before Allerheiligen (All Saints’ Day). Luther basically attacked the vorherrschende Ansicht (prevailing opinion) that one can be delivered from sins by paying a Lösegeld (ransom). He therewith instigated the reformation of the church.
Celebrating Halloween actually is not a German Brauch (custom) but it became more and more beliebt (popular) during the last years. Germans like to verkleiden (disguise) and feiern (celebrate) and, thus, there are nowadays Halloween parties all over Germany in clubs, bars, and discotheques.
There is also the custom that children run from door to door and ask for sweets. I remember the first time (maybe six or seven years ago) when children were ringing my doorbell and shouted “Süßes oder Saures” (lit. sweets or sours), which is the German version for ‘Trick or Treat’. The German saying means something like: ‘Give me sweets or I let you have it’. There is the German idiom jemanden Saures geben (to let someone have it), which literally means ‘to give someone sourness’.
Anyway, I was completely surprised finding children at my door who were asking for sweets because I wasn’t prepared for that. I only had an open bar of chocolate at home, so I didn’t open the door and waited for them to go away. That was a learning experience to me. Since then I buy a lot of sweets every Halloween to give them away. But I unfortunately had to learn another lesson. Collecting sweets seems still not to be very common in my town because there were also years when I was left with all the sweets. Nevertheless, I don’t give up hope that children will ring my doorbell tonight 😉
der Reformationstag – Reformation Day
der Mönch – monk
der Ablass – indulgence
die Buße – repentance
das Allerheiligen – All Saints’ Day
die vorherrschende Ansicht – prevailing opinion
das Lösegeld – ransom
der Brauch – custom
beliebt – popular
sich verkleiden – to disguise
feiern – to celebrate
jemandem Saures geben – to let so. have it
and some sweets:
die Schokolade – chocolate
das Bonbon – sugar candy
der Lutscher – lollipop
das Kaubonbon – soft sugar candy
die Gummibärchen – gummy bears
die Lakritze – licorice (mostly black licorice, red licorice is not very well know)
die Kekse – cookies
die Waffeln – wafers