German Halloween Vocabulary and Customs

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German Halloween Vocabulary and Customs

On Wednesday it’s Halloween again. No doubt many of you have celebrated this weekend, and those of you living in Catholic cantons (Kantone) and federal states (Bundesländer) can expect to have November 1st, All Saints’ Day (Allerheiligen) off. So there are a few things that I must tell you. Though Halloween is not completely foreign (fremd) in the German speaking countries, it’s not as popular as in North America or other English speaking countries. That said, here is some important German Halloween vocabulary.

appleder Apfel, die Äpfel
All Saints DayAllerheiligen
jack-o’lantern, literally hallowed-out pumpkinausgehöhlter Kürbis, ausgehöhlte Kürbisse
hard candyder Bonbon, die Bonbons
demonder Dämon, die Dämonen
to decorate / decorateddekorieren / dekoriert
to light uperleuchten
to scare / to frightenerschrecken
face / mask / ugly face / ugly posedie Fratze, die Fratzen
party where people where masksdas Fratzen-Fest
someone who makes funny/scary/weird facesder Fratzenmacher, die Fratzenmacher / die Fratzenmacherin, die Fratzenmacherinnen 
to cut a face in a pumpkineine Fratze schneiden 
to make a faceeine Fratze ziehen
cemetary / graveyardder Friedhof, die Friedhöfe
ghost / spiritsder Geist, die Geister
ghost storydie Geistergeschichte, die Geistergeschichten / die Gespenstergeschichte
ghost / specter / phantomdas Gespenst, die Gespenster
the witching hourdie Gespensterstunde
spookygespentisch / spukhaft
grave / tombdas Grab, die Gräber
gravestone / tombstoneder Grabstein, die Grabsteine
horrorGrusel- (for use in compounds) / der Horror
horror talesdas Gruselmärchen, die Gruselmärchen
horror movieder Gruselfilm, die Gruselfilme / der Horrorfilm, die Horrorfilme
horror-like, monstrousgruselig
celebrate HalloweenHalloween feiern
heathen, non-Christianheidnisch
witchdie Hexe, die Hexen
horror scenedie Horrorszene, die Horrorszenen
candledie Kerze, die Kerzen
costumedas Kostüm, die Kostüme
costume partydas Kostümfest, die Kostümfeste / die Kostümparty, die Kostümpartys
pumpkin / gourdder Kürbis, die Kürbisse
pumpkin headder Kürbis-Kopf, die Kürbis-Köpfe
lantern processionder Laternenzug, die Lanternenzüge
maskdie Maske, die Masken
monster costumedas Monsterkostüm, die Monsterkostüme
spooky / hair-raisingschaurig
souldie Seele, die Seelen
skeletondas Skelett, die Skelette
spiderdie Spinne, die Spinnen
spiderwebdas Spinngewebe / die Spinnwebe
spookder Spuk, die Spuke
to hauntspuken
The place (house) is haunted.Es spukt (im Haus).
hobgoblinder Spukgeist, die Spukgeister
prank / trickder Streich, die Streiche
Trick or treat!Süsses oder Saueres! / Streich oder Süssigkeit!
to play a (nasty) trick/prank on somonejemandem einen bösen Streich spielen
candy / sweetsdie Süssigkeit, die Süssigkeiten / die Süsswaren / das Schleckzeug, die Schleckzeuge
devilder Teufel, die Teufel
the dead (pl.)die Toten
vampireder Vampir, die Vampire / die Vampirin, die Vampirinnen
to dress up in costumesich verkleiden
werewolfder Werwolf, die Werwölfe

Vocabulary Notes

I’ve color-coded the above vocabulary to make it easier to learn. This is a good way to learn genders. Also note that I have included some collocations and the plural forms of the nouns. When you’re learning your nouns (Substantive / Nomen) it is always good to learn the plurals, as there are 7 standard ways to make nouns plural in German. Also note that with compound words, we make them plural by pluralizing the last word in the compound


Building a compound noun in German (singular):

  • das Kostüm + die Party = die Kostümparty


  • die Kostüme, die Partys

but we only use the plural of the last word, therefore:

  • das Kostüm + die Partys = die Kostümpartys

Halloween or Karneval

As I stated above, Halloween is not as established in the German-speaking countries. Halloween makes for interesting parties and many bars and clubs are profiting from people’s desires to dress up, go out, and have a good time. However, traditionally the dressing up is done during Karneval (Fastnacht, Fasnacht, Fasching, die fünfte Jahreszeit), which takes place between February 4th and March 10th depending on when Easter occurs.

All Saints’ Day

November 1st is an important holiday in the Catholic areas. On this day all of the saints (Heiligen) and those who have yet be be canonized (heiliggesprochen) are remembered and paid respect.


November 11th is also a feast day in memory of St. Martin. In German it’s called Martinstag and/or Martini. In many ways it is akin to Thanksgiving. In some regions of Germany, the traditional sweet of Martinstag is Martinshörnchen, a pastry shaped in the form of a croissant, which recalls both the hooves of St. Martin’s horse and, by being the half of a pretzel, the parting of his mantle. In parts of western Germany these pastries are shaped like gingerbread men. Another widespread custom in Germany is bonfires on St. Martin’s eve, called Martinsfeuer. There is generally a lantern processions (Laternenzüge) that accompanies those fires. In Berlin, on Martinstag, it is customary to cook and eat a Martin Goose (Martinsgans), which is usually served in restaurants roasted along with red cabbage and dumplings. It also marks the first day of Karneval and is a huge celebration in Cologne as the preparations for the full Karneval celebrations in February start.


I’ve made flashcards for the vocabulary above. You’ll find it here.

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