Halloween Past & Present in Holland

giant Halloween pumpkin at supermarket in The Hague

Halloween has started to become more and more popular in European countries including the Netherlands. Known also as All Hallows Day, Halloween is celebrated each year on the 31th October, the day/evening before  All Saints’ Day.

Prior to this, Celts had celebrated the 1st of November as New Year’s Day as it was the start of a new year based on the Celtic calendar. After the arrival of the Romans onto the British islands, the Celtic new year festivities morphed with Roman traditions which celebrated the new harvest around the same time. When the Roman empire fell and the Middle ages began, the Catholic Church transformed what it viewed as pagan traditions into All Hallows Day (All Souls Day), a celebration of the dead, which occurs on the eve of All Saints’ Day.

Originally it was thought that the spirits of the dead were attracted by harvested crops being stored in and around homes. In order to keep the bad spirits from consuming the harvest, Celts would wear scary masks in the hopes of frightening them away. During the 19th century, Irish immigrants who were used to celebrating Halloween, brought this tradition with them when they arrived in the United States.

Over the past quarter century, Halloween celebrations have started to become more popular in Holland, both among school children and young adults. Halloween parties can be found happening at night clubs, bars, social clubs and even neighborhood associations. Participants are expected to arrive in costumes reflective of the dead coming back to life.

Unlike the American tradition of going door-to-door (“trick-or-treating”), festivities in the Netherlands are usually limited to decorating homes with pumpkins, skulls and bats and having group Halloween parties.

In South Holland, garden centers will usually sell pumpkins for carving and party supplies shops will offer costumes for both children and adults as well as decorations for the home. Childrens activities include learning how to carve pumpkins into what is known in English as the “Jack-o’-lantern” (i.e. “Jack with a lantern”).

English: A traditional Irish turnip Jack-o'-la...
English: A traditional Irish turnip Jack-o’-lantern from the early 20th century. Photographed at the Museum of Country Life, Ireland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Here is a list of Halloween events happening in The Hague and throughout South Holland.


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