Halloween: Your Questions, Answered
Halloween’s origins lie in the Celtic mists of carved turnips, bonfires and celebrations of life and death. It’s always been a fun/spooky time of year since, of course, the flipside of harvest is utter desolation and fleece socks. The Irish brought Halloween to America, where it became a children’s holiday. Tots were free to wear handcrafted costumes, wander cutely and collect treats, which were sometimes even homemade before the Halloween Candy Panic.
Halloween, like so many things, then became bigger and more expensive and less fun. Indeed, embarrassment has ruled large parts of the land on October 31 with the rise of drunken adults wearing cheap “sexy” costumes. At the same time, anti-Halloween feelings have been gaining momentum amongst some Christians, who object to its “pagan” elements: monsters, witches and so forth.
Keep in mind that Halloween is one of the Big Three holidays, but unlike Christmas and Easter, it lacks a sturdy overlay of Christianity. What kind of a holiday is it, exactly? No one seems to know. Recently in NJ, a school Halloween was canceled and then uncanceled. One non-pagan substitute for the Day of Mummies and Candy is a “Harvest Festival.” Which is maybe a little…pagan?
The Evangelical actor Kirk Cameron insists that Halloween is a historically Christian holiday that celebrates Jesus’ triumph over death. Perhaps Mr. Cameron will save Halloween the way he plans to save Christmas. One can only hope.
Some Pagans and Wiccans themselves are celebrating Samhain, which, in brief, is based upon the old ways of the Celts. Samhain celebrations usually involve fire, feasting, honoring the dead and shutting down summer. Usually, that is. Practices may differ. Many believe the veil separating this world from the next is at its thinnest at Samhain, which makes it a great time to get in touch with one’s dead.
Folks who have gotten tired of Halloween just ’cause, and gone all Dia de Muertos might be guilty of cultural appropriation. Many white Day of the Dead celebrants, for their part, say it’s “way more meaningful” that Halloween, and also “totally rad, if you think about it.”
Reports have come in from New Hampshire describing white people rioting over pumpkins; where to turn? Where to turn?
Meanwhile, the number of people who will turn off their lights and pretend they are not home on October 31 is predicted to rise again this year.
Mary Valle lives in Baltimore and is the author of Cancer Doesn't Give a Shit About Your Stupid Attitude: Reflections on Cancer and Catholicism. She blogs on KtB as The Communicant. For more Mary, check out her blog or follow her on Twitter.