(Part one of three)
I love Halloween. I love the tip into the dark half of the year. I’m not very invested in all the trappings that come with mainstream Halloween stuff. I’m not super crafty, so the costume part isn’t that exciting for me. I try to avoid sugar as much as possible, so we go really easy on the candy. I don’t like a lot of cheap, plastic crap, so that narrows down the amount of stuff which with we decorate. But Halloween, as it is secularly practiced (did I just make up ‘secularly’?), is such a wonderful holiday for kids! Candy, costumes, play – facing the spooky things of the world – it’s all a wonderful treat for kids.
My memories of Halloween as a kid involve carving pumpkins and dressing up for trick-or-treating. However, in South East Alaska, winter had already descended by the end of October and costumes were rarely awesome. Sometimes it had already started to snow, so you had to figure out a costume that would look good with a snow suit (not possible). If it hadn’t started snowing, it was likely the rain was blowing sideways and the temperatures were close to freezing, so what costume would look good with rain gear (not much)? As a female, it was hard to get too caught up in the Slutty X costumes, merely because staying warm and dry was a priority.
Halloween, or Samhain (sow-en), for the Celtic observers, is an important festival in the Pagan world. It marks the shifting of the year, from the light half to the dark half. Winter begins; the harvesting season is over. The ‘veils between the worlds’ is considered thin, meaning that we have more contact with the spirit realms, including the world of the dead. This is why we dress up – to confuse the evil spirits. In older times, dressing up and playing games was a way to throw off the respected cultural norms, allowing people the freedom to be something else. I think this is where the Sexy X costumes come from.
I refuse to link to any of the Sexy costumes, but you know what I’m referring to. I don’t know if they’ve gotten worse and more ubiquitous in the last decade (I suspect yes) or if I’m just getting old and happen to be a mother now (yes, to that too) that I find Halloween slightly more problematic. I certainly don’t want my daughter growing up thinking that it’s cool to be ‘Sexy Elmo’ (and yes, I’ve seen a picture of that costume). And then there’s the problem of all the sugar in a world already too disordered in its eating. Oh, it’s a parental conundrum.
Here in Wales, and I think the greater United Kingdom, Halloween is not a Thing. Not many places decorate for it. Very few people dress up. Not many kids go trick-or-treating. Our first year here we had two knocks on the door! Last year we had about ten. I can appreciate this. However, my husband really wanted to have a little Halloween party for our son and a couple of families and their small children. So we decorated the house, laid out some food, and hosted 6 adults, two three-year olds, two two-year olds, a one-year old, and the 8 month old baby. Strangely enough, hardly any one touched the chocolate! I made warm apple cider (non-alcoholic), which must be an American specialty because this was the second party we’ve had where no one seems to know what it is!
Our three-year old boy dressed up as a witch. I was planning on dressing up as a man, with a tie and a moustache, but I have been sick for a week and didn’t have the energy to do much more than shower and show up. I even forgot to dress up the baby. No matter! She had fun on her own, playing with everyone else’s costume.
Halloween is a holiday that drapes over a few days. I think that traditionally in Celtic lands it lasted for three days. That suits me just fine. Sunday was the children’s party. Tonight I am attending a ritual, in the woods, with the local pagan society. Tuesday evening we will have a family dumb supper in honor of the dead. Wednesday I am singing with the local Church of Wales (Anglican/Episcopal) chapel in their service for All Souls Day.
May you have a festive All Hallow’s Eve, a blessed Samhain, and a happy Halloween! I hope you stay warm and dry!