The Halloween Question

What is it with Halloween anyway? What a weird festival it is if the word festival could even be attributed to this very strange event.  A date in the calendar when people appear to adopt all manner of pagan rituals and superstitions like ghosts, zombies, witches and skull sculpted pumpkins. When cruelty and fear becomes acceptable for people who for the other 364 days of the year are usually kind and considerate Christian people. My mind is blown by the dichotomy of it all,  this so out of character behaviour of otherwise straight forward people. Why?  Why is this one day of the year suddenly different to every other, where cruelty and fear become the norm for one day? 

I have used the term “cruelty and fear” because how else can you see the practice of trying to scare other people with the symbols and actions used at Halloween. I see it as an act of cruelty to purposely frighten or scare another being, human or other. Why do it, what form of kindness can you bring forward to rationalise this?

All in the name of fun supposedly. What is funny or enjoyable about cruelty and fear? Is this a way of letting off the pressure of denying it within themselves for the rest of the year? I see no possible rationale for celebrating fear and cruelty even if it is a way of exorcising one’s inner demons for one day of the year. I would suggest a rethink, a realignment of your personality is required if fear and cruelty are in any way driving you.  But is that really the basic instinct of a lot of people, to scare others, is that what really floats their boat? I trust not as this would destory one of the basic tenets I cling to, that all people are compassionate and loving at heart regardless of whatever other behaviour they may stray into from time to time. 

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty. 
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi 

What does the history of Halloween tell us that might help to understand it.  It’s origins lie in the Gaelic festival Samhain which in turn has its roots in pagan history stretching back eons. Samhain was usurped by the emerging Christian church in about the 9th century AD to become the eve of All Saints Day or variously All Hallows Day, hallows being another word for saints. Honouring past lives was only a small part of both the Gaelic and Christian observances whereas they have now been corrupted into spirits and demons and have become the dominant part of Halloween. More imporantly it marked the move from autumn to winter which is yet again a northern hemisphere centric view that has been foisted on us in the southern hemisphere by our invading ancestors. We in the southern reaches of this planet are of course moving from spring to summer at this time of the year so where is the relevance for us?  

It wasn’t an event at all in Australia when I was growing up and has only started to be adopted as part of the influx of USA traditions brought to us by the “magic” of television. Even stranger still is that it has grown into this enormous calendar event in the USA, the country my wife calls bi-polar because of the apparent extremes in opposing behaviours. This is one of those. For a country so overtly Christian in all its flavours of religious extremism, how has a “festival” celebrating witches, demons and zombies become so popular?

How has this harvest festival which included a loving remembrance of departed souls become corrupted into this horrible circus where little children are encouraged to become monsters for a day. Literally. All the sort of demons that our imagination can dream up. Perhaps it is the corollary, an extension of the same innovative thought that created gods and religion I suppose. As the law of yin yang demonstrates there needs to be opposites to see either. However there is no definitive proof of the existence of either gods or demons and they live on only in the imagination of humans.

 I am happily immune from any attraction Halloween may have to others and I am certainly happy to be a buzz killer on this particular sort of buzz. I think there is merit however in returning to the original Samhain and pagan origins of taking time to remember and celebrate the lives of those who have passed from this life, particularly those who brought joy and purpose into our life with theirs. This All Hallows Eve let’s spend some time simply remembering and honouring these people, our own personal “saints” .

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