Today in the Netherlands and Belgium children celebrate what some consider a Dutch version of Halloween, Sint Maarten (Saint Martin’s Day). Like Halloween children go door-to-door after dark seeking candy. But unlike Halloween there are no costumes or jack-o-lanterns. Instead, with paper lanterns in hand, children sing songs in exchange for candy.
A few weeks ago after seeing Halloween decorations in several shops in Belgium, I spoke with a local woman about its growing popularity. She expressed her dismay at Halloween’s increasing predominance among Dutch and Belgian children at the expense of their own traditions.
Halloween was barely on the Dutch radar when I moved to the Netherlands more than a decade ago. But when we went trick-or-treating this year in a neighborhood with very few expats, there were plenty of Dutch children out as well. Here’s hoping that tonight they put away the costumes and customs associated with Halloween and hold their paper lanterns high in honor of Sint Maarten.