The origin of Halloween can be traced back to the year 1745. Halloween was originally a Christian feast influenced by the Celtic harvest festivals. It was brought to America by Irish immigrants. Today in Europe, probably only Ireland and Scotland celebrate it like it is done in America.
The rest of Europe only knows Halloween from American television shows. The last few years, it has been adopted by commerce in order to sell gadgets. In some places they organize costumed parties, but children don’t go trick or treating like they do in the US.
But several countries have an alternative feast to treat children with candy.
In Holland they celebrate the name day of Saint Marten. As the son of a Roman army officer, Martinus joined the army at age 15. When he met a beggar in France, he gave the man half of his red cloak. 40 years later, after being elected bishop of Tours, he founded several monasteries. He was cherished for his compassion with the poor. On the night of November 11, children in Holland go from house to house with Chinese lanterns, to collect candy.
In Belgium they celebrate Saint-Nicolas, a Turkish bishop from the fourth century who was known for his generosity and kindness. Italian sailors brought his remains to Europe and his celebration spread to northern Europe as the patronage saint of sailors. Today Saint Nicolas is just a way to make children behave well. On the night of December 5, Saint-Nicolas and his servants bring candy and toys, but only to the good children. Parents tell their children to be nice, because Saint-Nicolas, on his white horse, will travel over the rooftops and visit every house. His servants will climb down the chimneys to bring gifts to the good children. A child that behaved badly that year, wouldn’t receive anything.
One month later, on January 6th, they celebrate the coming of the 3 wise men that visited baby Jesus at Bethlehem. Children dress up as the wise men and go from door to door to sing a song and ask for candy. In Spain, these 3 wise men bring gifts to the children. In many Spanish cities there are parades to celebrate this feast.