The end of October and the start of November are special times in Europe. Like our Halloween many of the fall traditions do include sweets and costumes. But they also include visits to candlelit cemeteries. Such traditions can last from several days to an entire week.
Many regional celebrations span an entire week, or at least a long weekend. Here are a few favorites from around Europe.
Travel writer Chris Ciolli did a wrap up of unusual fall graveyard traditions and customs. Here are a few of them:
For All Hallow’s Eve, Austrians leave a light on all night, as well some bread and water for the dead. In Germany, kids carve Rübengeister, root monsters, from beets or turnips to scare away bad spirits and their parents put away knives before bed to keep the departed from harming themselves.
According to Ciolli, Germans and Swiss Protestants choose November 10 to honor Martin Luther’s birthday and Catholics celebrate St. Martin’s Day, on November 11th. These festivities, much like our Halloween find students going door to door for treats.
Special foods and time off work are part of the celebrations held in Spain, Portugal and Italy. Spanish sweet treats include Huesos de Santo, marzipan cookies made to look like bones. Bony cookies with cloves are popular in Sicily.
Also, at this time special prayers for the dead are said and flowers are left at their gravesites. In some instances it is believed that children’s’ prayers for the dead said over the course of a year could result in edible doll gifts.
The United Kingdom’s Guy Fawkes Night, celebrated November 5, is, for many people more popular than All Saints or All Hallow’s Eve. Originally it was a celebration of King James I surviving Guy Fawkes’s attempt on his life in 1605. Bonfires and firework displays in the dark can last all night.
In the Czech Republic All Saints is a weeklong event that welcomes deceased souls back to the land of the living. Just as is the case for Dia De Los Muertos, family members decorate the graves of loved ones with flowers and candles or lamps. Some also enjoy walking the grounds of historic cemeteries and abandoned tombs.
According to Slavic belief, during this time, also known as Dziady, ancestral ghosts and relatives are called upon to dine with the living. Graveyards are lit up with candles meant to help keep any lost souls warm (and happy enough to stay on the burial grounds).
Such observations as the above Fall Graveyard Traditions suggest that honoring those who have passed is an important way to keep them (their memories) alive. We hope you find ways this fall to remember your loved ones, too.