Halloween comes every year on October 31 but there’s a spooky holiday that’s far more contagious which arrives far earlier in the year.
Walpurgis Night happens every year on April 30 and is commonly referred to as ‘Witches Night’. Some people call it the second Halloween and befittingly so as April 30 falls at the exact point halfway between October 31sts.
Walpurgis Night comes from German traditions, originally celebrated on the eve of the Christian feast the day of Saint Walpurga. This was common in the 8th century, commemorating Saint Walpurga and the movement of her relics to Eichstatt. Saint Walpurga was praised by German Christians for battling against pests, rabies, whooping cough, and – you guessed it – witchcraft!
Subsequently, in Germanic folklore, it was believed witches would meet on this night on the highest peak of the Harz Mountains in central Germany between the rivers of Weser and Elbe. Christians would pray to God for protection from these witches, a fear which converted the majority of the local population to Christianity. In parts of this area, people will still light fires on Walpurgis Night to ward off evil spirits and put God on guard for witch activity.
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Walpurgis Night is more of a European holiday and isn’t really celebrated in North America. It doesn’t really come from our traditions here however in Germany, Sweden, and Finland, it’s a celebration still had. In Germany, people dress up in costumes and play pranks just like on Halloween. Fires, bonfires, and fireworks are also very common. There are specific treats and Halloween-esque meals enjoyed on this night.
Why the other Halloween has become a night for witches has largely to do with defying what is otherwise an anti-witch night. Since Walpurgis Night was originally a night to out witches and protect against their interferences, it was also a night said to be a time where witches would congregate, connect, communicate, and celebrate their witch-iness. For would-be witches in twenty-first century Canada and beyond, Walpurgis Night is a night that comes close to Halloween in terms of its charm and purpose.
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This Halloween, as you’re out amongst the witches, ghosts, ghouls, and all sorts of spooky tomfoolery, it’s worth remembering the reputation of Walpurgis Night and the power, fear, and strength that witches or would-be witches once had. Although one can argue these sort of celebrations are anti-witch, the rallying against the status quo and puritanical Christian culture demonstrate a rebel yell from witches very reminiscent of the many stories surrounding Halloween.