Many English-speaking expats, particularly Americans who arrive in Switzerland, may be surprised to learn that Halloween is not a famous festival for the carnival-happy Swiss.
Switzerland has more masked carnival festivals that any other country per head of population. When it comes to the festivals of the dead, they prefer to be more downbeat. They celebrate All Saints Day on 1 November by going to church, mainly in the Catholic cantons. The following day, 2 November, is All Soul’s Day or the Day of the Dead, when they light candles in cemeteries and taking flowers to family graves.
But the Swiss do have folk traditions in their life and beliefs, particularly in rural areas. There are some five thousand rituals in the Swiss folklore calendar that deal with evil and spirits in a colourful way.
What are the origins of Halloween?
Long before Halloween existed, a Gaelic festival known as Samhain, marked the end of the harvest season and the descent into the darkness of winter. Some believed that this was the time when the souls of the dead roamed the earth. This festival became Halloween and as Gaelic people migrated across the world, they took this tradition with them. In the USA it got a commercial make over as only the Americans can do and it grew from strength to strength in mainly English speaking countries. In the USA and now the UK, Halloween is huge with costumes, merchandise and events in all neighbourhoods for humans and animals alike!
Trick or Treat?
The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to come from an old practice of people disguising themselves as spirits, and demanding rewards in exchange for good fortune. Impersonating departed souls was believed to offer protection from them.
In 19th century North America, Irish immigrants introduced the custom of carving Jack-o-Lanterns, named after a mythological character who carried a hollowed-out turnip (Swede as the English call them) as a lantern, to ward off the devil. Pumpkins later replaced turnips and carving Jack-o-Lanterns became a popular Halloween tradition. Interestingly, candles are placed in pumpkins in a reenactment of the old belief that light chases away malevolent spirits, in many Swiss festivals.
Where to celebrate Halloween in Switzerland,
Switzerland has resisted, what they see as the commercialised festival of Halloween. However, it is now taking hold…. But you do have to do some research to find the best places to celebrate.
Halloween activities in Switzerland are still typically local, and trick or treating for children has not really caught on yet. However, the expat communities are helping to expand the popularity. There are now Halloween themed parties and lantern making workshops for children. In Zurich and Geneva as well as in the Valais and Vaud, last year,we found, plenty of Halloween activity including, ghost walks, markets and costume parties. We even found one this year despite the COVID restrictions. in Villars sur Ollon .
This year it seems that the easiest way to celebrate Halloween will be at home with family and friends. Even your furry friend can join in the fun with the contents of their Halloween themed Woof Club Box. Why not try a traditional game of bob apple – the dog will love it – the cat – maybe not so much!
How Can The Woof Club Help You?
To get yourself in the mood, you can join us at The Hunde Herbst market on 3rd October in Aarau. Our Halloween Woof Club Box will be on display and you will have the opportunity to have a photo taken of your pet in Halloween costume. Looking forward to seeing you! Send us your videos and photos of your Halloween celebration with your four-legged friends,please! If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us by submitting a form online or sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org .