Walpurgisnacht | Word of the Week | DW | 29.10.2013
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Word of the Week


Time to bring out the witch in you

Think Halloween is the only night when people dress up as witches? In Germany, you would be wrong. The broomsticks come out on the night of April 30th until the first of May for the celebration of Walpurgisnacht, or Walpurgis Night. According to ancient tradition, witches meet on Brocken Mountain - the highest of the Harz Mountains in the north of central Germany - to await spring and celebrate.

The festival day was named after the English missionary Saint Walpurga, who was canonized on May 1, 870. The tradition of Walpurgisnacht has remained strong throughout Germany's history. One of Germany's great poets and thinkers, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, named a chapter in his famous opus, "Faust," Walpurgisnacht. And the no-less famous German novelist Thomas Mann also dedicated the last chapter of his book "The Magic Mountain" to Walpurgisnacht.

Nowadays Walpurgisnacht is celebrated a little differently than in the past. In southern Germany, young people use the night to play pranks on neighbors, while in Berlin, May Day riots are the norm.

Whether you commemorate it with riots or pranks, Walpurgisnacht is always exactly six months before All Hallow's Eve, better known as Halloween. Although not a traditional German holiday, Halloween is becoming more popular in Germany and is threatening to overshadow Walpurgisnacht.

So learn this word quickly, before it's officially scared away by the trick-or-treaters and costume lovers of Halloween.

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