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Halloween

Halloween is a relatively new addition to Sweden’s yearly celebrations. With Celtic roots, this tradition is best known for the American-style pumpkin decorations and trick or treat customs, both of which Swedes have also adopted.

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Photo: Anna Kern/Johnér

A young tradition in the gathering dark

Halloween has only been celebrated in Sweden since the 1990s, and has rapidly become established here − not least as a result of smart commercial marketing. By the beginning of November, Sweden is enveloped in darkness and the long working weeks stretch away endlessly.

There are no public holidays or extended weekends in the calendar between the summer holiday and All Saints’ Day. Halloween heralds the schools’ autumn break and represents a welcome diversion in the gathering dark.

Dress parties and pumpkins

The occasion is mainly celebrated by children and teenagers. They go to fancy-dress parties and ghost parties, light lanterns and venture forth into the streets to scare the life out of the neighbourhood. Many pubs and restaurants stage Halloween parties and decorate their premises with fearsome attributes. Halloween has come to stay.

On the island of Öland in the southern Baltic Sea, the arrival of Halloween has led to an upswing in pumpkin growing, and the giant fruits are now quite readily available.

Last updated: 25 March 2014

Po Tidholm & Agneta Lilja

Po Tidholm is a freelance journalist and a critic based in the province of Hälsingland. He regularly contributes to Swedish dailies Dagens Nyheter and Aftonbladet, the magazine Filter and Swedish Radio. His texts about society, culture and history often revolve around the Swedish countryside and the north of Sweden. Tidholm has written the main sections about how we celebrate in Sweden today. | Agneta Lilja is a lecturer in ethnology at Södertörn University College, Stockholm. Her doctoral thesis, The Notion of the Ideal Record, was a critical examination of collection strategies at an archive specialising in the documentation of customs and traditions. Her research has also included the study of songs and festive customs, and she has written a book about All Saints’ Day and Halloween. At present, she is engaged in gender research. She also writes reviews and appears on radio and tv. Agneta Lilja wrote the sections about the history of Swedish traditions and festivities.