American Halloween and German Halloween are very different!
In the US you would expect to see all sorts of costumes- cowboy, skeleton, princess, witch, movie characters, etc. Halloween is not just a spooky holiday, but a fun one for the whole family. It’s expected that children and adults alike embrace the fantastical aspects of the day as an opportunity to dress up as they see fit. There’s a lot of flexibility. Heck, people even dress up their dachshunds as hot dogs!
Not so in Germany. If you go out on Halloween in Germany, you’ll likely only see seriously spooky costumes: zombies, ghosts, witches, werewolves, murderers etc. All the “fun” costumes mysteriously disappear. There are no gag costumes or couple costumes, no astronauts or politicians, few superheroes and jedi- only creepers and jeepers. This even holds true with school children, who might come to school dressed in black, stereotypical halloween costumes. What gives?
Halloween is only a recent celebration in Germany. It coincides relatively closely with Carnival, which also includes costumes, and until 25 years ago, this was sufficient for Germans itching to dress up in a costume.
But retail pressures have brought the holiday across the Atlantic. Big sales on clothes and candy make shops prosper, and consumers keep spending. Halloween has slowly gained prominence across Europe, even though it’s mainly celebrated in the US.
However, a couple parts of the holiday have been lost in the transition across the ocean. Trick or Treating hasn’t really caught on yet, though “Süß oder saueres!” is a rough German equivalent. And important for our inquiry: the idea of costumes outside of the stereotypes haven’t caught on yet either. Germans have seen Halloween in American movies and TV for decades, and have recognized the stereotypical spooky costumes as the only possible. That’s why German Halloween is dominated by werewolves, ghosts, witches, and axe-wielding murderers!
Things continue to change. Maybe this year you’ll see a different mix. But don’t be surprised if you see a 6 year-old with a knife dressed as Jason. It’s just how things are!