Traditional Halloween activities which have become part of the American culture as well as big business (over 5 billion dollars a year) are under scrutiny and in many locales churches and religious groups are sounding the alarm that the devil is alive and well. Is there something satanic or evil about Halloween costumes and festivities? Of course, this depends on your view of evil.
Someone said blame the Celts. Hold it! Since my heritage is Celtic, I am somewhat offended by that inference.
It is true Halloween has its origins in the Celtic festival of Samhain, lord of the dead. Today, Samhain in medical terms is the basis for Samhainophobia, fear of Halloween.
Samhain was the transitional point between Fall and Winter as well as a weakling of the interdimensional wall between the real life and the shadowy world of demons, ghosts, etc. A modern comparison could be made to the Phantom Zone in the Superman mythology, especially as vividly shown in the Smallville television series.
The Celts, my progenitors, wore costumes. They lit bonfires. They ate and drank and made merry. They had fun. It provided a nice break from the daily drudgery of living.
When the Romans came, they added their own customs and beliefs to Samhain. Their Feralia festival was to honor the Roman dead. Their goddess, Pomona, gave the tradition the apple since this was her symbol. Bobbing for apples or a nice caramel apple or homemade apple butter on a buttery bun are things of this season.
With the arrival of Christianity the Catholic Church attempted to replace these pagan festivals with more saintly celebrations. However, the traditional festivals and the new All Saints Day and All Souls’ Day, existed side by side. As time always reveals, the three days/evenings of All Hollows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, would be lumped together in Hallowmas.
Over the centuries other traditions have been added. Trick or treat was a way for the whole community to participate by sharing apples, candy, baked goods, etc.
Walking into the Wal-Mart, there are shelves of Halloween candy waiting to be bought for the special day. 25% of the annual candy sales are for Halloween. If you love Snickers, you are not alone—it’s the number one candy bar for Halloween. Perhaps, Halloween should be reclassified as a dental phantasm or the preface to obesity down the road.
I wonder if there is any significance to Martin Luther nailing his famous or infamous (depending on which side of the table you sit) 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Castle Church door on October 31, 1517? The theologians out there will have to answer that one.
How do you feel about Halloween? What do you do on that day or night? Do you help to contribute to the billions of revenue that companies rake in from this weekend? Do you carve pumpkins for your front porch or window? Do you dress up in a costume? Visit the local community haunted house?
Now, whatever side of the debate you choose, I would hope that this weekend you will spend time with your children. For in the years to come, your children will look back and remember those moments they spent with their parent, parents or grandparents, especially after you have died. If you do not have children, spend time with friends, doing some fun stuff or helping the local community center with their plans. Community Centers can always use the additional help anytime of the year.
One last thought: on CBS’ Criminal Minds Wednesday night, Aaron Hotchner returns from Detroit in time to go trick or treating with his son, Jack. For those who have watched the series, Hotchner’s wife was murdered last season. When young Jack emerges from his bedroom, he has a business suit on. His dad is surprised and asked why he was not dressed like Spiderman. Jack responded by saying that he wanted to dress like a real superhero–his dad. The greatest compliment that a child can give his parent(s) is that he/she wants to be just like them. Those childhood memories can never be erased. Think about it.
Have a great fall weekend and keep away from those dark shadows unless it is the old ABC series, Dark Shadows!
G. D. Williams © 2010
PHOTOS: I would like to thank lc for the use of her photo on the top and aw for the use of her photo above.