Halloween or Herbstmesse?


October is one of my favorite months of the year, it is the month of my daughter’s birthday and it starts to get colder, but the beautiful afternoon sun is still shinning. I love pumpkins, the falling leaves; and since moving to Basel I have fallen in love with Herbstmesse.

I used to associate October with Halloween, a tradition I learned to appreciate in the USA. But Anglo expats and others like myself, who have learned how to appreciate this celebration, know that Halloween in Switzerland is mainly an expat community event. Therefore, the amount of work and the excitement of preparing for the Trick-or-Treaters is significantly scaled down, but it certainly does not take the fun away from going Trick-or-Treating with the little ones.


              Photo: © good Housekeeping

It came to my attention this year how hard it is to find Halloween costumes, party knick-knacks and decorations in Basel. The assortment is quite limited and it appears mainly on internationally known high-street shops. I ended up finding what I was looking for in Germany. I also found out that in Switzerland Halloween is a festivity most popular amongst young adults, who attend fancy dress parties in clubs or private homes, drinking and dancing the night away.

It is good to keep up with traditions and celebrations from where we come from, but as said before: ‘When in Rome do like the Romans’. So for us expats residing in Switzerland, especially in Basel and nearby areas, October also means time to celebrate a very old tradition in Autumn Fairs.

“13 Fascinating Things You Didn't Know About Halloween”

                 Photo: © visitbasel.ch

Here in Basel Herbstmesse is the largest and oldest amusement fair, a tradition dating back over 540 years which it is a part of Basel’s living heritage. According to Kanton Basel-Stadt Herbstmesse attracts around a million people to Basel from Switzerland and abroad and the opening of this awesome Autumn fair is signalled by the Fair Bell of the Church of Saint Martin at exactly 12 o'clock. This tradition always takes place on the Saturday before the 30th of October. You can find out more information HERE.

              Photo: © visitbasel.ch

During Herbstmesse the atmosphere in Basel is great, the beautiful lights and tall temporary structures transform the city skyline. The city is buzzing with great energy from people of all ages and walks of life. Actually I would dare to say that the city atmosphere this time is better than during the Christmas market period.

                            Photo: © Panik75

So back to the question of Halloween or Herbstmesse? I would say both! Enjoy your Halloween, with its dressing up, Trick-or-Treat, pumpkin carving, face painting, and candies. It is not only great fun but also a tradition for Anglo expats that can be experienced by their kids residing in Switzerland and share with non-Anglo-Saxon friends. But this Saturday October 29, 2016, like the thousands of Baslers, join this 540 old year tradition and have fun celebrating Autumn in Herbstmesse. Discover the delights of Magenbrot and Beggeschmutz, be part of the crowd that shapes the vibrant city landscape and enjoy a fabulous time with friends and family.

At alegria we are celebrating October via a HALLOWEEN SALE. We got pumpkins that cannot be carved or eaten but they can certainly make lovely decorations and above all be part of some great pretend play fun for your children.

Happy Halloween & Schöne Herbstmesse




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  • Flavia Augusta de Almeida
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