Unmask Halloween

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Quenjule Slaven.

The contagious mentality of Halloween has grown on us so much, that skulls have become the latest fashion trend, and witches, zombies, ghosts, werewolves, goblins and vampires have taken hostage of television series, books and the movies.  Halloween is a popular holiday in many countries, and according to some conspiracy theorist, it’s often called the Devil’s night because of the traditional pagan rituals and strong occult practises indulged presently on that day.    I know crazy, right?  

According to the National Retail Federation, a record of 170 million Americans spend close to $8 billion on Halloween, the busiest holiday second only to Christmas.  I personally love Halloween and who doesn’t enjoy a good scare every now and then?   It’s a chance to use our imagination, make-believe, be entertained in Haunted House theme parties, have a little dress-up fun, costume parties at school, eat FREE candies and threaten to play tricks on those who don’t give out treats.  I didn’t see a lot of harm in it, but what’s the real story behind the tricks and treats behind Halloween? After doing some research into the history and ancient origins of Halloween, I am surprised and now have mixed thoughts about what to do. 

Like many other holidays, Halloween has evolved and changed throughout history.  2000 years ago people called the Celts lived in what is now Ireland, the UK and Northern France.  November 1st was New Year’s Day and they believed that the night before New Year (October 31st) was a time that the living and the dead came together. 

It was called Samhain, where the Celts communed with the spirit of the Dead.  More than a thousand years ago, the Christian church named November 1st, All Saints Day (also called All Hallows). This was a special holy day to honour the saints and other people who died for their religion. The night before All Hallows was called Hallows Eve, later changed to Halloween.

Like the Celts, Europeans of that time also believed that the spirits of the dead would visit the earth on Halloween.  They worried that evil spirits, which included ghosts, witches, goblins, black cats, fairies and demons of all kinds, would cause problems or hurt them. 

So on that night, people wore costumes and masks that looked like ghosts or other evil creatures.  They thought if they dressed like that, it would scare the spirits away or would think they were also dead and not harm them. One of the customs was going from home to home to gather sweet cakes, ale and food offerings for spirits so they wouldn’t harm anyone (could it be the first trick or treating?). 

Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic and superstition.  Back then, it was also thought to be the most favourable time for marriage, luck, health, and death.  It was the day on which the help of the devil was invoked for such purposes (scary). 

These traditions of Halloween were carried in 1700s to America by immigrating Europeans and eventually, some traditions changed where costumed children begin their quest for yummy candy and innocent fun.  Halloween today has become a horror night show not only because of fear of spirits but of other people like witches and evil entities.  Ghosts today are often depicted as more fearsome and malevolent along with customs and superstition.         

So whether you celebrate Halloween or not, this time of year everyone’s attention is on spooky, creepy, and downright scary.  Evil costomes and carved out jack-o-laterns once again invade our emotions with an invitation to join in the harmless celebration of darkness.  So I asked myself, “How do we separate the paganism from the fun and what are we really celebrating when we celebrate Halloween?  Well, isn’t it really all about fear, deceptiveness, darkness and death? 

When we remember the truth about our own beliefs, it really isn’t hard to say no to Halloween plus it really helps that Samoa is not so into it, yet.  Sure it may take some determination and effort on our part, but there are no tricks here.

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