Thursday, October 30, 2014

Say BOO! by Robin Janney

Nothing good can come from this omen...
It's that time of year again.


Perhaps one of the most controversial holidays in existence.  I say this because of one paragraph I read in the Wikipedia article about this fall holiday.  While I realize Wikipedia is not always a reliable source, I found the article to be absolutely intriguing.

The word Halloween translates as "Holy Evening".  The holiday we have now is a far cry from its origins, first as Samhain, the Celtic festival celebrated from sundown on the 31st to sundown on the 1st.  Samhain directly translates as "November" and marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the dark days - It should come as no surprise that Daylight Savings Time ends this weekend and we switch back to standard time.

This time was marked with moving heard from the higher pastures down to the lower winter pastures, and choosing which animals would be slaughtered for the upcoming winter.  It was a time for bonfires and feasting.  Many times the hearth's of homes were doused previously so they could be rekindled from the new bonfires.  Different places had different customs, which remains true today.  This time of year was believed to be a special time of year when then the fabric between dimensions thinned.  Because of this believe there were also many rituals performed during Samhain.

As early Christianity spread across Europe, they influenced the Celts and began to celebrate All Saint's Day the same time as Samhain.  All Saint's Day was originally May 13th, but was later moved to November 1st.  Whether it was because of the two holy days' similarities or as an effort to "combat" the pagan traditions, no one can agree.  There is even the possibility that the church in Rome ordered the change because the city became over crowded during the feast in the summer, especially with the Roman fever a danger.

Graveyards are spooky no matter what time of year it is!
Trick or treating, bobbing for apples, carving jack-o-lantern's are just a few of today's traditions that have been passed down through the years.  Traditions still vary from place to place.  I remember trying to bob for apples once, I wasn't very good at it!  I was 18 when I went trick or treating for the first (and only) time!  And had my fingers shut in a car door for my trouble!  I've never been toilet papering, but I helped a lawn grow plastic forks once...but that wasn't for was an out of season prank.

It's a time for pumpkin everything and scary stories.  There is a lot of emphasis on the departed.  One thing that has lost emphasis in my corner of the world is the remembering and honoring of the departed.  I mean, I've never been to an All Saint's Day service.  I have been to a funeral at this time of year, as my oldest brother died on Halloween 3 years ago.  When the phone rings at 4:30 in the morning, the news is seldom good.

The reason why I call this a controversial holiday isn't because of the mixed attitudes Christians have toward it.  This is a holiday that no religion can agree on.  Some Jews won't celebrate it because it is in violation of a commandment to not participate in Gentile (non-Jew) customs.  Islam is just as split, lumping Halloween in the same category as Christmas and Easter.  Some Neopagans and Wiccans don't participate in the secular version of the holiday, preferring to stick to Samhain traditions.

I used to fall on the 'Halloween is evil and shouldn't be acknowledged' side of the Christian argument.   I wouldn't even participate in church held evangelizing outreaches on the night of trick or treating. Then I switched to the camp of 'Let's shine our light in the darkness.'  Partly because of subtle pressure from the pulpit.  Partly because the pulpit was making sense.  If there's darkness, the light will will push it back.  But since leaving the church, my mind has changed on a lot of issues.  I no longer regard God as this scary judge sitting in heaven taking notes on everything I do.  Life is too short to live in fear that dressing up as a princess or ghost will be held against you after your death.  I myself doubt it would even register on a list of things to be judged.

In many ways, I have to agree with the author of this blog post on the subject.  It's not about whether or not we celebrate Halloween, but how we treat people.  Dressing up as that princess or ghost won't damage a person's faith anymore than dressing as a telephone booth damages his daughter's faith.  The truth is, all the holiday's have become secularized and commercialized to the point it's easy to participate in without subscribing to the beliefs that started it.

Halloween isn't the same without waiting for the Great Pumpkin!
I might even buy some candy and answer the door on Sunday when our community holds trick or treating.  Because it's fun.  I saw trick or treaters in town as I returned my library books, and wished I had kids so that I could have joined them.  Or course, that's still a few days away and I am just as likely to buy a pumpkin and try to cook it down in my slow cooker just to see if I can do it.  Because I love the smell of a pumpkin being cooked down to be used in pies and bread later for Thanksgiving.  Depending on how I'm feeling, because right now this chick just wants some chicken soup and a warm blanket.  I'm settling for warm ginger ale and a sweater until I sign off here.

Enjoy your Halloween, no matter how you chose to celebrate it.  Be safe and have fun.

Do you have any favorite Halloween memories you'd like to share?


  1. I love reading about the old customs!! CPS

    1. I learned new things reading up for this, and I have a better respect for the old customs. :)