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Walpurgisnacht: Celebrating the Night of Witches in Europe

Walpurgisnacht: Celebrating the Night of Witches in Europe
on April, 29 2014

Image credit: WalpurgisTchequie by Daniel71953 at fr.wikipedia under Public Domain.

In certain parts of Europe, the Halloween season comes earlier than most other countries. This is because they celebrate “Walpurgisnacht” which is a German term for Walpurga’s night that eventually became synonymous to the Night of Witches. It is a spring festival traditionally celebrated in many parts of Central and Northern Europe. It runs from the evening of April 30 until May 1. It is scheduled exactly 6 months before Halloween Eve.

Historical background

This festival was named after a missionary saint from England, St. Walpurga. Since she was canonized on May 1, she has become more popular with the term, May Day. Therefore, this celebration is set a day before May. Usually, it comes with traditional dancing. Since this holiday was started, it has spread all throughout Europe – in Sweden this celebration is called Valborgsmässoafton; in Lithuania, it is called Valpurgijos naktis; while in the Czech Republic, it is called Valpuržina noc.

This celebration started as early as the 16th century. In the 17th century, this tradition was branded as the day when witches and sorcerers meet. This was also inspired by the Witches’ Sabbaths in the writings of the 15th and 16th centuries. Another story about this celebration came from Germany. According to the story, during the last night of April, witches gather in a place called Hexentazplatz where they dance. After dancing, they will then fly together using a broomstick in a place called Harz Mountain. They are said to dance with the devils for blessings.

Modern celebrations

Though the background of this festival is a bit scary, its modern celebrations are way more fun and exciting. In the Czech Republic for instance, this day usually marks the last day of winter. This is why they burn all their broomsticks and straws and create a huge bonfire. They will then dance around the bonfire or drink beer and have sumptuous meals.

In Finland, this day is considered as one of the 4 biggest celebrations throughout the year. They usually celebrate it during the day. They gather in huge parks where families meet and dine together. They will spread blankets all over the floor while eating. There will be loud traditional music and games.

In Germany, there will also be bonfires to mark the beginning of the celebration. In some towns, they dress up in scary Halloween costumes. To make it even more exciting, they play pranks towards their neighbors. They either mess up the garden, make graffiti or hide their neighbors’ stuff.

In Sweden, the celebration is usually accompanied by songs. Traditional songs are played throughout the country. In some universities, there will be a huge celebration. It is like a school fair where there will be booths that sell foods and drinks and other forms of entertainment.

In most countries celebrating this festival, dressing up using their most creative scary costumes is a must. However, the more important thing is that they make use of this time to celebrate their blessings and look forward to the days ahead of them.

Bernadine Racoma

Bernadine is a writer, researcher, professional and multi-awarded blogger and new media consultant. She brings with her a rich set of experience in the corporate world, as well as in the field of research and writing. Having taken early retirement after working as an international civil servant and traveling the world for 22 years, she has aggressively pursued her main interest in writing and research. You can also find Bernadine Racoma at .

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