Swedish Language Blog

Halloween in Sweden Posted by on Nov 8, 2011 in Culture, Living in Sweden

This past week there has been big confusion over what day Halloween actually should be celebrated on. So a lot of people just started celebrating on the 30th and continued to just about the day before yesterday i.e. 6th of November.

The reason for this most likely being the Swedish holiday “Alla helgons dag” which is celebrated on the Saturday between the 31st of October and the 6th of November and “Allhelgonadagen” which is also celebrated around the same time. To summarize the historical significance of a couple of holidays around this time of October and November I’d like to start with two Christian holidays called “Alla helgons dag” (All saints day) and “Allhelgonadagen”.

Alla helgons dag was originally celebrated on the 1st of November, in lots of countries, in remembrance of all the churches Saints. However, 1772 the day lost its right to be a public holiday and was moved to the first sunday of november.  But during the 1950’s the Swedish government got so many motions about adding more public holidays in the autumn that the “Alla helgons dag” was moved to a Saturday, since that was still a working day during the 50’s. The 1st of november holiday was then called renamed Allhelgonadagen.

In addition to these Christian holidays there is yet another cultural/religious event playing a role. The germanic Christians took and adapted the Celtic traditions of celebrating/remembering the dead to amongst other countries Sweden. People believed that the dead returned at the end of the summer and beginning of autumn, therefor needed guidance to peace through lighting fires and and candles. Which people still do in combination with visiting relatives graves even today.

During the 11th century the Catholic church created a day of remembrance for the dead on the 2nd of november, “All Soul’s Day”. This day was later on taken away again in Protestant countries after the Protestant reformation, but the customs were moved to “Allhelgonadagen”.

In summery there are two days, very similar but yet a little different. “Alla Helgons dag” which is celebrating Saints, and is always on a Saturday, therefor making it a non-fixed holiday. “Allhelgonadagen” is a day of remembrance of the dead and is always on the 1st of November.

Halloween is however a very recent custom in Sweden and wasn’t imported to Sweden until 1995. This holiday comes from “All Hallow’s Eve”. Children go from house to house dressed up as evil spirits, ghosts etc. asking for candy and threatening to play tricks, more commonly known as “Trick or Treat”. This comes from the belief that as soon as the harvest had taken place the soil had been disturbed and all spirits stirred. Good ones and bad ones, that is why people though the dead needed to be guided. The bad spirits are supposed to be driven away by a pumpkin with a carved face with a candle inside, and of course lots of other candles and perhaps a fire or two.

Halloween is a fixed holiday, always suppose to be celebrated on the 31st of October, but since there are so many other holiday around the same time in Sweden, no wonder people get confused about what day to celebrate what.

Tags: , , ,
Keep learning Swedish with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. Jamie Noakes:

    I say to all Swedes that are confused that Halloween is always the 31st October – it is a fixed date the same as Julafton (Christmas Eve) is always 24 December or Valborgsmässoafton, which in many ways is connected in tradition and origin to Halloween, is always 30 April. So it should not be hard to remember. The problem comes from the wandering date of the Swedish All Hallows Day, and indeed some people misunderstand Halloween as an imported usurper of this day. It is not. May I also add that Halloween is not American in origin as some wrongly believe.

  2. Lee C.:

    Interesting that Halloween was imported 1995 (by whom, confectioners and costume makers?).

    With another American I organized a Halloween party in Uppsala in 1988 (on a Saturday, not on the correct date). The whole idea was novel to the Swedes, but they enjoyed the chance to dress up in costumes, and the younger ones enjoyed the spook alley we set up in the basement.

    Do the Swedes do haunted houses as we do in the USA? (For that matter, do other countries?) During October, the evening sky here is lit by rotating searchlights advertising various temporary haunted houses.