Did Vikings Celebrate Halloween?
Halloween is a tradition that originated as a pagan festival in parts of Northern Europe. This holiday is brought by immigrants from Ireland and Scotland to the United States. It became popular and is celebrated annually in different parts of the world since its commercialization in the 1900s. Different countries have different ways of celebrating Halloween but did Vikings celebrate Halloween? Keep reading this article to find out.
For many European cultural traditions, Halloween is a time when magic is powerful and the ability of spirits to make contact with the physical world is a lot stronger. However, despite originating in Europe, Vikings actually didn’t celebrate it. Vikings actually had a seasonal celebration around the same month of the year but rather than wearing costumes and doing trick or treat, they used sheep and cow shaped masks based on archaeological remains found at Haithabu (Hedeby).
Chapter 8 The Heimskringla of Icelander Snorri Sturluson recorded that there were three annual festivals that appeared to have been known and celebrated throughout Viking Age Scandinavia.
Vetrnætr or "Winter Nights" is a Norse tradition that signified the start of winter and was celebrated in between October 11-18. The other two celebrations were celebrated at different times of the year. Yule (Jól) or Hökunótt, which is also known as "mid-winter night” and considered the most important was celebrated around mid-January. On the other hand, Sumarmál ("summer time") was celebrated between April 9-15 and signified the start of summer season.
Based on several sagas and skaldic poems in the Old Norse literature, animal sacrifices (blót) were part of Vetrnætr feast, as well as ale drinking (sumbel). This ritual was done as a way to worship Norse Gods and other mythical creatures in the Norse mythology. Apart from this, a festival called Dísablót (the sacrifice to the dísir and valkyries) also took place during Vetrnætr which was believed to help subsequent harvest.