Spectacular Swedish serenity on All Saints’ Day

I remember walking around Stockholm when I had recently moved here. It was a pitch black Saturday evening in November, cold and crisp. As I approached a majestic church, I noticed that it was shimmering from the grave yard. This yellow and white light slowly flickered and cast shadows on the gravestones and the church wall. As if drawn by a magic spell, I walked up to the church and looked over the wall. The sight that met my eyes was spectacular and serene at the same time. Hundreds of candles were spread around the cemetery, decorating each of the graves. In the memory grove a bright blazing blanket of candles lit up the area. It was as if the spirits of the dead had come out to play.

In Sweden, the first Saturday in November is All Saints’ Day (the Sunday after All Saints’ Day is called All Souls’ Day to separate between the saints and the dead).

Since the 1800’s Swedes have, during this weekend, made pilgrimage to graveyards up and down the country to decorate the graves with candle light and to pay respect to the dead. It is a much more elegant and atmospheric tradition than the typical Halloween parties that otherwise have become very popular in Sweden.

It is a truly beautiful experience to walk through the churchyards this weekend. In the pitch black November Nordic darkness, it is a peaceful reminder of those who have gone before us. So head for your nearest cemetery this weekend and, if you happen to be in Stockholm, go to the Forest graveyard (Skogskyrkogården) for a specifically spectacular experience (pictured below).

All Saints’ Day – the Swedish way 

Dressing up as witches, vampires and other ghoulish things has become increasing popular in Sweden. However, the traditional way of celebrating this time of year is much more serene and romantic. 

In Sweden, the first Saturday in November is All Saints’ Day – not necessarily November 1st as in most other countries. In 1983, the Sunday after All Saints’ Day was given the official name All Souls’ Day to separate between the saints and the dead.

Since the 1800’s Swedes have, during this weekend, made pilgrimage to graveyards up and down the country to decorate the graves with candle light.

It is a beautiful experience to walk through the churchyards this weekend. In the pitch black November Nordic darkness, it is a peaceful reminder of those who have gone before us. If you happen to be in Stockholm, head for the Forest graveyard (Skogskyrkogården) for a specifically spectacular experience. 

Ghosts and Ghouls

halloween drottninggatan

Today is Halloween and in Sweden, the tradition seems to be getting bigger and bigger every year: Jack O’Lanterns everywhere, orange and black, masquerades, scary window decorations.

Most people associate Halloween with USA, but the tradition originated in British Isles and was taken overseas by the immigrants.

Because it’s Halloween, I thought I’d share a childhood memory of the tradition from when I lived in the UK. When I was about 10, we were instructed by the teacher to write a poem about each month of the year. Since I have always loved to write, I set about the task diligently. But when I got to October, I got stuck, I could only get the first line…

‘October, now it’s Halloween,

So I asked my mum for help. She sat down beside me, and almost immediately came up with the next line!

‘October, now it’s Halloween
Ghosts and ghoulies can be seen!’

She was so proud of herself. But I laughed hysterically.

You see, in the 70’s ‘goolies’ was slang for testicles! ‘Ghouls’ means ghosts.

Sometimes grown-ups just don’t get it.

Happy Halloween!