What To Expect
My first experience with Hexennacht was in 2010, a few months after I had arrived in Germany. My husband was away on a mission, and I was home alone. Around 1 a.m., I woke up to some rustling in my back yard. I looked outside, and sure enough, there was someone running around back there, carrying some of our lawn furniture. I was totally freaked out and called the police. A while later the Polizei and military police show up and take my statement. Nothing was stolen, but I had to hunt around street to collect some of my things. This was my first introduction to Hexennacht.
The night of April 30th is known as "Hexennacht", or Witches' Night. This is a night when the kids feel at liberty to go out and cause some trouble. Some of the typical antics include hiding your lawn furniture or garbage cans, doorbell ditching, toilet papering your vehicle, or even more fun, covering your doorknobs with mustard or ketchup. I remember one year the kids had taken lawn furniture from all the houses and switched them. In the morning we had to go on a scavenger hunt to find our things. It's usually all in good fun, but on occasion, it can be taken too far. For example the removing of drainage covers or street signs, which can create serious safety hazards or destruction of property. Thankfully the Polizei are well versed in this "holiday" and will be vigilant in busting any of the kids participating in the naughty, and sometimes outright illegal behavior. Hopefully, your village stays nice and quiet during this evening, but it's best to be ready just in case!
How Witches' Night Came to Be
During Hexennacht, it is said that there is a witches' meeting on the Brocken, which is the highest peak in the Harz Mountains. This location is in a range of wooded hills in central Germany between the Weser and Elbe river. During this meeting, the witches and evil ghosts, which are represented by snow, darkness and cold weather, meet for a night of mischief. They wreck havoc by riding about on pitchforks, broomsticks, and goats. In earlier days, people would hide these things in order to prevent the witches from doing evil things. Some believed these witches prevented the Queen of Spring from entering the country, thus continuing the darkness and cold of winter. The night is also called Walpurgis. Walpurga, an English saint, lived during the eighth century and was known for casting out pests, rabies, whopping cough and demons. Many prayed to God, through St. Walpurga for protection during this time.
Survive Hexennacht by hiding your doormats and flowerpots, pulling in any accessible lawn furniture, driving extra cautiously and checking your doorknobs before you reach for them. We've had years where the streets have been silent, and others where we had a bit of light vandalism and a good laugh. Will you prepare for Witches' Night?