American traditions around Halloween have become more popular in Norway in recent years.
From trick-or-treating kids to pumpkin-spiced lattes, Halloween is now a part of modern Norwegian culture.
How do Norwegians celebrate Halloween today?
It took a long time to take hold, but America's love of Halloween has finally made it to Norway – sort of.
Thanks in part to TV series and movies, the trend of celebrating Halloween began in Norway around twenty years ago, but it has only really taken off in the last five or ten years.
Throughout October, stores stock up on anything ghostly and ghoulish, anything orange and black and especially items shaped like a pumpkin, and of course, bags of candy.
Yet despite the odd special display made by toy shops (see photo above!), decorations do remain low-key. This is a philosophy you'll also find in residential areas.
While in America many families spend incredible amounts of time decorating their homes for the occasion, the most a Norwegian household may do is put out a carved pumpkin and a candle in the window. If they really push the boat out, perhaps there'll be a toy bat or two hanging in the doorway!
One of the concepts that has taken a hold is trick-or-treating, but with a Norwegian flavour. Children are generally accompanied by their parents and it is a very friendly neighbourhood experience. Depending on where in Norway you are, you're likely to hear “knask eller knep” or “digg eller deng”.
Another popular activity for older generations is to hold a house party, often with a fancy dress theme. This normally takes place on the weekend before Halloween rather than the evening itself, so it's not uncommon to see buses filled with made-up party-goers on the Friday or Saturday evening.
Scary movies in Norway
Scary movies play a big part in modern Halloween culture the world over. Here are some of the most popular Norwegian language horror movies:
Død Snø / Dead Snow: Nazi zombies in the Norwegian winter. Yes, really! The film follows a group of students on a mountain cabin trip that end up having to fight off these zombies…
The New York Times said the director “doesn’t just hit every horror beat; he pounds it to an indistinguishable pulp.” A sequel was released in 2014.
Villmark: The movie responsible for reinvigorating the thriller genre in Norway was seen by over 150,000 Norwegians when it premiered in 2003. The film title translates as ‘The Wilderness' and is based around a reality TV show that takes a group of people to an old cabin in the woods, away from any methods of communication.
The tagline of the film “De skulle holdt seg unna det vannet” translates to “They should've stayed away from that lake”. A sequel was released in 2015, set inside a former asylum.
Trollhunter: This dark fantasy movie in the ‘found footage' style of the Blair Witch Project is a rare Norwegian film that manages to combine local culture and mythology with a touch of Hollywood razzle-dazzle.
The New York Times called it a “clever and engaging mock documentary” with “ultradry Nordic humor”.
Haunted Places in Norway
Halloween is a popular time to check out some of the most haunted places in Norway, including:
Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim is said to be haunted by a ghostly monk, regularly spotted since the 1920s, while others have claimed to hear chanting or organ playing late at night.
Akershus Fortress in Oslo remains a military site, and some Norwegian soldiers have reported being pushed while alone. The grounds are patrolled by a ‘demon dog' that was buried alive centuries ago.
Nes church: Cars parked near the ruins of this former church regularly experience problems with locks and lights. Many people claim to have felt a resistance while walking, as if they were walking through water.
The origins of Halloween
Halloween as we know it today is a relatively modern phenomenon, but it does have ancient roots.
‘All Hallows’ Eve' originated long ago in British Isles. It was believed that spirits of the dead roamed the planet on the last night of October, intent on ruining the harvest.
Children didn't hassle their neighbours for candy. Instead, people set big fires on hills, carved faces into turnips to ward off spirits, and even dressed in costumes to disguise themselves.
In the world of Christianity, All Hallows' Eve is the night before All Saints' Day. Children went door-to-door asking for food, and in exchange they promised to pray for the souls of the dead.
While the spooky costumes, trick-or-treat, and carving pumpkins all have their origins in history, the modern interpretation of them as a fun celebration began in the USA. The excitement and status of the celebration has grown with time.
As with many other aspects of American culture, it has since spread around the world.