You planned a fall trip to Europe, and wouldn’t you know it, you’re missing your beloved Halloween in the ‘Lou: no trick-or-treaters, no themed parties, no the Darkness or any other haunted houses, no seasonal visit to Creepyworld, no nothing. Never fear, Europe’s got some fun Halloween customs of its own you should try on for size. Even if you don’t bring them back to St. Louis, they’ll keep you from obsessing too much about costumes and candy corn.
- Attend or throw your own Castanyada “Chestnut Party” in Catalonia. In Catalonia, an autonomous region of Spain (think Barcelona), Halloween, or All Saints’ Eve is celebrated in a particular way. Families and friends get together to eat roasted chestnuts and sweet potatoes and finish off the meal with panellet cookies and moscatel wine. Panellets are a marzipan cookie. The most traditional version is a ball shaped cookie covered in pine nuts. Of course, in this day and age you can purchase many more flavors (coconut, chocolate, cherry, the list goes on). But be forewarned, the cookies don’t come cheap. In bakeries they run around 40 to 60 euros a kilo (and they’re not lightweight cookies). They are slightly less expensive in Supermarkets, but the quality may not be the same. Shell out some euros and try the fabulous variety available at Forn Mistral, a local bakery chain with locations throughout Barcelona.
- Decorate graveyards in Poland. On the evening of All Saints’ Day, the day after Halloween, Polish tradition dictates visiting graveyards and placing candles and flowers on graves of not only family members’ graves, but also old and forgotten graves and the graves of strangers. So buy some colorful candles and flowers and help light up a cemetery in Warsaw or a small village in Poland. If you have Polish heritage, some prior research before you leave St. Louis could have you decorating the tomb of a distant relative.
- Spend your Halloween in Ireland, for Halloween celebrations more similar to the ones you experience in St. Louis. Because the holiday is said to have originated in Ireland, as the pagan festival of Samhaim, and because of close ties between Ireland and the United States, Halloween festivities in both countries have a lot in common, (think jack-o-lanterns, bobbing for apples and bonfires). Be sure to try some Barnbrack, a traditional Halloween Fruit cake; if you find the ring, you may just encounter a little Irish romance. Try something different at the Spirits of Halloween Festival: Watch a re-enactment of the the original Celtic Ceremony with a torch-lit procession from Fair Green to the top of the Hill of Tlachtga.
- When in Paris, do as the Parisians do…take the day off from more traditional tourism and stroll Paris’ picturesque and flower-laden cemeteries on November 1st. Take pictures or just people watch at the final resting places of Jim Morrison and other famous individuals buried in the French Capital. Don’t miss the Pére-Lachaise Cemetery and the Montparnasse cemetery. If you must have your jack-o-lanterns and costumes, head to Disneyland Paris’ Spook Street or leave Paris for the candelit pumpkin Halloween parade in the city of Limoge.
- Head to Northern and Midland England for Mischief Night and observe the “trick”in trick-or-treat. Depending on where you are, it’s celebrated between Halloween and November 4. For the most part teenagers and young people play harmless pranks on people they know and cause general mayhem. That said, don’t participate, as Mischief Night participants aren’t immune to prosecution, and the practice is frowned upon by some, with many supermarkets refusing to sell eggs and flour to children under 16 in the weeks leading up to the holiday.
If your situation is the opposite of the one described in the opening paragraph, and you’re in the ‘Lou, dreading the “typical” Halloween celebrations, why not try on one of the European customs described above for size? Visit and decorate the St. Louis gravesite of relatives, loved ones or fallen soldiers, bake some Barnbrack, play pranks on friends, or throw a Castanyada