All Hallows Eve has usually been a time of great fun and fancy dress among children and adults alike. Historically, it provides an opportunity to flout evil, to be a little strange, and have a party. Over time, though, the evil once flouted and mocked has taken over, and it is no longer safe for children to prowl the streets in search of sweets. Defiance has turned to subservience and fear.
Like many holidays, Hallowe’en has been separated from its spiritual origins and is highly commercialized. It has become the autumnal equivalent of Shrove Tuesday (or Fat Tuesday), the day of excesses before Lent begins. The two days that follow, the Feast of All Saints (All Hallows), and the Feast of All Souls, make up the rest of Allhallowtide. Those two days are sombre remembrances of those who have left us behind.
Hallowe’en has its roots in Celtic paganism, and was once a serious observance. The spirits of the ancestors were invited to their former homes for a feast; the spirits and faeries were given offerings of food (left outside the home) to ensure survival during the winter. In time, under Christian influence, the holiday was adapted, but some of the practices, including mummery and fancy dress, remained.
Years ago, a young mother buried a daughter who had been born only four months before. Hallowe’en came soon after the burial, and the young mother was angered and embittered because to her, the focus on gore, graveyards and ghosts, was insensitive and abrasive. It was a caricatured summation of her daughter’s four-month life. The world did not care about her loss and sorrow. It was hard to equate the masks, laughter and fun activities of Hallowe’en, frivolous parties and nocturnal hunts for sweets, with the death of an infant—of anyone, for that matter.
Given the world as it is now, fraught with global tension and anxiety, celebration is more needed now than it has been in decades. I believe to do so without mindfulness is not a celebration, but activity for the sake of activity. To bring peace, to truly revel, a good celebration must be rooted in its origins. They should not be forgotten.
While I might enjoy the masks and goofy horror films of the season, I know they do not honestly represent what they are meant to. I am mindful of another young woman whose life began in beauty, was led into temptation, and ended in addiction and suicide. There is no way more crass to remember her than the commercial present day Hallowe’en. I will embrace her spirit during the rest of Allhallowtide. Then we will both have peace.
What will you do?
Paul TN Chapman
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