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Happy Halloween Posted by on Oct 31, 2011 in Culture, Current Events, People

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



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About the Author:Sandra Rösner

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra