All Saints Day: How Scandinavians honor the dead


Although many Scandinavians have adopted the American way of celebrating Halloween in recent years, the original holiday ‘Alla Helgona Dag’, All Saint’s Day, has not been forgotten. In Scandinavia, All Saint’s Day is one of the most celebrated autumn holidays. Similar to the Mexican holiday, Día de Muertos, it is a time to honor both Christian saints and family members who have departed.

It is believed that the origins of the holiday date all the way back to the 11th century, and was originally called ‘All Souls Day’. The holiday would with time progress into a celebration of saints who didn’t have their own individual feast day, and later on a day to also honor those who lost their lives during World War I and II. Today, All Saints Day is primarily a day where Scandinavians honor their departed friends and family members.

The day is typically celebrated by visiting the cemetery and lighting candles on the graves of loved ones. They may even cook a special meal and enjoy it with family while reflecting on life, and the lives of those who have passed.

Skogskyrkogården during All Saints Day.

The holiday is typically celebrated on the first Saturday of November. This year, All Saint’s Day falls on November 5. If you happen to be in Stockholm and have an extra hour or two, pay a visit to Skogskyrkogården, one of the city’s most famous cemeteries, where thousands of candles have been placed on graveyards in honor of loved ones.

This article was originally published on October 31, 2018 and has since been updated. 


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