Saturday, 31 October 2009

Unhappy Halloween

Well, here we are, October 31st again, and I think this is the last year I can get away with avoiding the whole subject of Halloween with the girls.

I don't 'do' Halloween. I don't do it a) on principle and b) on preference. On principle because it's a pagan festival, specifically a celebration of spirits, witchcraft etc etc and as a Christian it's against my religion, man. On preference because a) I find the sight of little kids dressed up as vampires and skeletons weird and creepy b) I've had bad experiences with South London hoodies trick-or-treating c) why mess up a lovely harvest autumn vibe with skeletons and occulty stuff? And pumpkin pie? It's a crime against cuisine! D) (yes, I'm on a roll, but ranting can be good for you) it's also a peculiarly American festival and I resent the Americans taking over my cultural anniversaries. What was wrong with bonfire night?

Have your say, because I am feeling comment-starved. Am I
a) a miserable old fart. Put on your witches' hat and party!
b) spot on! Those trick-or-treaters should be locked up and force-fed pumpkin pie til they repent.
c) right and wrong, because I'm a nice person (not like you) and I like to sit on the fence


Ms Mac said...

I'm with you, dude. But more because I'm miserable than out of principle of belief.

The Swiss don't "do" Hallowe'en and I resent it being dragged out commercially every year in an effort to make money. They Aussies didn't do it either despite the retail sector pushing Hallowe'en products out in the same way.

However, if I was in 'Merica or Scotland (where Hallowe'en has been celebrated by "guising" for some time now) I'd embrace it. When in Rome and all that.

RE said...

It's just another excuse for commercialism. I live in the US and I hate this "holiday". I resent my doorbell ringing all night long, even when the lights are OFF. And it is dreadful that we're teaching our children to go begging for candy. That said, my children enjoy running around the neighbourhood with their friends and they will eventually grow out of it.

BaronessBlack said...

Okay, you asked for it!
Interesting post! Personally, I'm quite fond of marking the different Autumn holidays, as you know here the Christmas goods start appearing in the shops around about the start of October and because we're on the old Orthodox calendar, we don't celebrate Christmas until the 7th January! That's a LONG time to have all the material aspects of Christmas rammed down your throat while you're trying to fast and prepare for Christmas!

Halloween isn't nearly as big a deal here as it is in the US, I might feel differently if I lived there. We tend to dress up a bit. But not elaborate costumes (not least because it's usually wet and cold!). We go to a local garden centre where most of the activities are about the change of seasons and the end of summer. They have apple bobbing and apple ducking, face painting, a bouncy castle, etc.
And we try to remind the children of the Christian aspects of the day by praying for all those we know who have died both in the morning and at evening prayers.

We had a few trick or treaters come round a few years back, but it's not very common here. Probably the bad weather discourages people!

On the historical side, almost all of our religious festivals coincide with Pagan ones. Hallowe’en is part of a whole string of autumn fire festivals. People slaughtered their cattle, ate and drank, remembered old times and hunkered down for a long, hard winter that many of them would not survive. All Saints’, All Souls’, Martinmas and St Katherine’s Day are all linked into this with various traditions and practices. Whatever has been made of it over the years it was literally a festival of light, not darkness.

I hope you have a blessed All Hallows, whatever you decide to do!

Persephone said...

My British mother was horrified, coming to Canada, to learn that Canadian children "begged" for candy each October 31st.

But my sister and I loved it. Our earliest Hallowe'ens were prairie Hallowe'ens where the call was a sung "Hallowe'en apples", and we often wore snowsuits under our costumes with Unicef boxes dangling around our necks. The magic of the darkening streets, the home-made costumes my mother carefully put together. Sigh.

Tonight, younger daughter is out with her dad. She's been waiting for Hallowe'en all month, and tomorrow, she'll go to church with my husband and sing "For All the Saints", because this is the eve of All Hallows. But tonight, there are fewer knocks at our door. The swine flu scare has cleared the streets, despite the fact that this pandemic has killed far fewer children than those who perish in cars, usually driven by their parents. The urban myths of razor blades concealed in apples have steadily diminished the number of treat-or-trickers, and no one carries Unicef boxes anymore -- cautious parents complained, after fifty years of this fine tradition.

As for bonfires, I'm rather more comfortable with the idea of an ancient festival where costumes and Jack o' lanterns were meant to fool and mislead evil spirits not glorify them, than a political one that commemorates capital punishment for treason.

My family tells me I make the best pumpkin pies in the world. I used real pumpkin (not tinned which is largely squash), the mashed, steamed, then frozen flesh of our lanterns tonight.

I'm sure it's a case of what you're used to, but of the excited little ones I've seen tonight look like devil worshipers to me...

Le laquet said...

I with you - I don't do Halloween and the whole trick or treating thing which is really knocking doors and threatening something horrible until you get what you want - pah!

Ros said...

Hey Lizzie- I'm with you man!

The shops over here are pushing it SO much more than ever before. There are 2 aisles at least of Halloween stuff in my local supermarket... costumes of course (actually they seem to have been toned down this year- less 0-12months serial killer outfits, more pumpkins etc)... but there has been tonnes of cheap tat to decorate your house with... even our local butcher had a sign up saying "get your Halloween bangers here"... and loads of people seem to be having halloween parties (cue loads of pile 'em high nasty cheap beer deals). I don't remember such a big fuss before.
It is very hard to avoid really.

On the other side, Darren's less negative than I am and he quite likes the American style Halloween shenanigins where you can dress up as non scary characters too.

Hey ho...

So- where do you stand on Father Christmas, Tooth Fairy, etc etc...?!

Anne said...

But surely, it's an Irish festival appropriated by the Americans. They made it more beautiful (and more commercial) and now we are reimporting it. I am a little ambivalent about this. On the plus side it's a lot easier to cut up a pumpkin than a turnip (our emigrating cousins having decided to use something local for their lanterns instead of the turnip that was favoured at home).

Rebecca said...

Well I don't share the religious objections, but I do object in general to the super-commercialisation and accompanying proliferation of plastic tat of all our festivals. On the other (frivolous) hand, my boys looked super-cute dressed as bats for their school party!

Marie said...

I think maybe you're taking it a bit too seriously. From the kids' point of view, it's just an excuse to wear fancy dress and eat sweets. I can't see the Jesus who turned water into wine objecting to a bit of pumpkin carving.

Marie said...

Sorry, I think that came across as more dismissive than I meant it. I just meant that I don't see Christianity as a religion incompatible with having fun, and Halloween strikes me as pretty harmless.

Or even healthy... What about the anthropological theory of the Carnivalesque, in which anti-establishment feelings are safely expressed in a burlesque fashion on the occasion of carnival, rather than causing problems the rest of the year? Christianity needs Halloween, discuss.

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