View from the Cheap Seats is kind of an extension of the newsroom. Whenever our three regular reporters, Calvin Daniels, Thom Barker and Kelly Friesen are in the building together, it is frequently a site of heated debate. This week: What the heck is Halloween, anyway?
Ah Halloween the time of grinning pumpkins, costumes and trick and treating.
Oh wait that is the Halloween pushed upon us by advertising agencies for years, and like most holidays, the vision of advertising is a skewed one at best.
As a result of the mixed messages of media, very few know what exactly Halloween truly is, and so it wavers somewhere between a legitimate holiday and a bad Hollywood horror flick brought to life every October 31.
As a result we have ended up confused. A recent Facebook post illustrated that for me when someone wrote “I find Halloween too scary. I would rather celebrate holy occasions.”
There is pretty good evidence Halloween comes to us from religion.
Halloween, also known as All Hallows’ Eve occurs on the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows (or All Saints) and the day initiating the triduum of Hallowmas, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers, according to one Internet source I perused.
If we delve a bit farther into the day’s past according to many scholars, All Hallows’ Eve is a Christianized feast initially influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, and festivals of the dead with possible pagan roots, particularly theGaelic Samhain.
While pagan ways may not be Christian in belief, they remain the roots of many New Age faiths, including Wicca, so are religious in nature, albeit a different faith path.
Like many things in our modern world, there are reasons for what we do, the wearing of costumes which dates back to at least the early 19th century in Ireland and Scotland, and likely earlier in pagan ceremony.
And there is again a religious aspect tacked on over time.
Rev. Dr. Eddie J. Smith, in his book Halloween, Hallowed Be Thy Name, offers a religious perspective to the wearing of costumes on All Hallows’ Eve, stating that “By dressing up in costumes and portraying frightening creatures, who at one time caused us to fear and tremble, we ... are poking fun at the serpent whose head has been crushed by our Savior.”
Today Halloween no longer holds meaning for anyone past children thinking trick and treating and parents’ costume dances, which leaves the day one lacking in a reason to exist.
Perhaps that should be expected here in North America where we have seen Halloween devolve into more and more house decorations, the sale of copious amounts of candies and the launch of the next big screen horror flick.
In the end it is just another case of holidays being hijacked by department store advertising departments, and therein lies the true horror of Halloween.
— Calvin Daniels
Of all the holidays during the year, Hallowe’en is simply the most confusing. There are those who claim it is satanic or a celebration of the occult. Others view it as a vestige of pagan harvest festivals. Some recognize it as an extension of the observance of the Christian vigil on the evening preceding All Saints Day. A more cynical view is that it is commercially manufactured for the benefit of the candy industry.
To me, these are all wrong and all correct, to some degree. Hallowe’en as it is practiced today in North America—and increasingly in other western nations due to the influence of American pop culture—is an entirely secular holiday, which incorporates elements from all of the influences noted above.
It draws its name from the Christian holiday, literally meaning All Hallows (Saints) Evening.
Some of the traditions resemble ancient pagan practices surrounding the end of summer and beginning of winter.
And, while both ancient pagans and early Catholics believed that their respective late-October/early-November holidays corresponded with a time of year when spirits (souls) and demons could more readily be seen or pass over from their world to ours, the connection with evil or the occult is almost certainly mostly a product of 20th century pop culture (horror films) and anti-Catholic fundamentalism.
Finally, it would be very difficult to argue the commercial aspect in light of the monstrous Hallowe’en industry that has developed over the past few decades.
When we look at history, we tend to forget that, just as today, populations of people are heterogenous. Traditions and ritual do not exist in a vacuum. Whatever its origins and/or influences, Hallowe’en is now its own entity.
— Thom Barker
As a 23-year-old whose childhood happened in the 1990s and early 2000s, it’s hard to paint a picture of Halloween as an evil day. My memories of October 31 are based around receiving free candy after saying ‘trick or teat.’
I am, however, not oblivious to other activities that happened around my hometown on Halloween. I remember seeing toilet paper wrapped around trees and some eggs smashed against houses. These acts of vandalism were a rare occurrence, but they can’t be totally disregarded. Not to mention, I remember hearing about some teenagers fooling around with Ouija Boards. I’m sure it still happens today, but it’s only a small minority that like to get involved in stuff like that on Halloween. And those people tend to be off their rocker to begin with for 365 days of the year, not just Halloween.
But looking past the criminals and oddballs, Halloween isn’t an evil day for the most part, despite its pagan origins. It’s all about kids being kids. It’s fun when you’re 6-13 to dress up as your favourite television show character and hang out with your friends while going door to door.
I personally believe what Halloween really boils down to is your heart. If you have a heart that looks for the bad in people or traditions, then of course you’ll view Halloween as an ‘evil’ day. But if you see it for what it really is in our society—a day where kids dress up to receive free candy—you won’t have a problem with it regardless of your religious beliefs.
— Kelly Friesen