Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Highway to Halloween

Devils. Ghouls. Witches. Goblins. All sorts of unthinkable evil, lurking without restraint for one night of the year. A "holiday" for the dark, scary and gory, and for that weird kid you know who for some reason lives for the night of death, even more so that Christmas. These are thoughts that have probably crossed your mind on October 31, also referred to as Halloween. 

Or have they?

Today, Halloween can appear evil and devious to some, where as to others it is nothing more than a way to get free candy. Going to a Christian college, I have experienced much more of the evil side of Halloween. Because of the evil connotations behind it, some Christians believe that we shouldn't celebrate it. Except, how evil is Halloween?

With that question, I had to do a little research. So I went right to the extremely reliable source of Wikipedia to see what I could find. Apparently, the holiday of Halloween started through a combination of things. Some roots can be traced back to the Gaelic holiday of Samhain, which was basically a celebration of the end of harvest. It also marked the end of a "lighter" time of year and going into a "darker" time of year. This would be because of the shortening of days and the coldness that occurs in winter. It was also a day to set a place for the dead, which included people telling stories of their ancestors. Bonfires were also a large part of the celebration, which were seen as a way to unite the village and purify it. Since there was the connection to the dead, people would dress up as evil spirits to either copy them or ward them off. Turnips were also carved with faces and placed in windows to ward off the spirits as well. We know use pumpkins because its tough to get your hand inside a turnip to dig it out. Unless, of course, you don't pay attention to how big your hands are when cutting off the top and end up with a hole that would barely fit a twelve year old girl. Sorry Dad. 

Another source would be from the Christian holiday of All Saints Day. Ok, not specifically All Saints Day, but the day before it, All Hallows Eve. All Saints Day was a day set aside each year to honor all the saints, known or unknown. In early Christianity (apparently) it was believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints Day. The day before was their last chance to extract revenge on those who had wronged them during their lives. People would then wear masks to avoid being recognized by the souls looking for them. 

The origins of Halloween seem fairly innocent. These are not the only sources of the modern Halloween, but probably the most significant. It generally is a holiday associated with the dead, but more to do with honor than evil. Of course, pranks would spawn out of people expecting souls to get revenge on them. That's just how the mind of a teenager, apparently since the middle ages, works. In Gaelic tradition, "trick or treat" (it wasn't called that, though) was more of "trick and treat". Kid would perform for treats of coins. So, most of the traditions we now have are from immaturity and desperation for candy. Seems good to me. 

But, as you have realized if you have wandered outside during the month of October, its become a little more...scary. This would be due to more of the Gothic and horror genres of entertainment. People loved them so much, like Dracula and Frankenstein, that they became the "new" evil spirits. And because of the huge rise in media in the early 20th century, people wanted to mimic their favourite movies and such instead of random ghouls and goblins. As movies and literature became darker and gorier, so did Halloween. 

I grew up in a Christian home that "celebrated" Halloween. I have that in quotations because we never went all out with the death and evil, but we weren't discouraged from trick or treating or partaking in our elementary school's Halloween parties. However, I hated dressing up. So I only went trick or treating around 4 or 5 times. Probably less. We also lived half an hour from civilization, so trick or treating wasn't really an option all the time. I just wanted candy, which is easy to get if you wait until after Halloween. I was also never a horror movie fan, so I never got into that. Yet I know people who discouraged their kids from doing even grade 3 Halloween parties. I always thought this was weird when I was young. I understand it much better now, that it was just trying to avoid all the evil stuff that comes with it. 

But is Halloween itself evil? From what I can figure out, the answer is no. It's origins were created to honor the deceased. So it's not a worship of spirits and evil. It's more a "worship" of pop culture. Dracula. Frankenstein. Freddy and Jason. The cartoonified Devil that's all red and has a tail. These are all pop culture things, influenced by film and literature. And the pranks? That is still medieval immaturity. So before you go out and condemn Halloween as the worship of demons all all things that will eat your soul, remember that it never really was. If it does cause you to dip into things that maybe aren't that wholesome, it's probably best to avoid it, but kids and adults alike are far more creative with costumes that a witch. I've seen some great ones that are either epic or hilarious. However, the verdict is still up to you. I'll still tell my kids its a day for candy...if they dress up. 

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