Halloween is coming, bring on the fearmongering…

It’s two weeks away, but now is still a good time to start thinking about Halloween. I won’t be doing any costume stuff this year. Last year I was a gypsy fortune teller. Another year I dressed as Death’s Grandaughter Susan but only one other person at work knew who I was. It was too much work explaining why I walked around with a scythe, a raven, and a skeletal rat dressed in a matching cloak. Hell, I even had the key to the stationary cupboard, I was that prepared. What a waste.

In grade school I was a clown a couple times, and a princess once, but it was super cold and blizzardy and I had to wear my snowsuit over my costume all night as we drove around the countryside visiting the neighbours and warming up. Another year we’d stopped in at this dinky little population 4 kind of village because my cousin and I were desperate to pee… but not desperate enough to brave the outhouse. We thought we saw something moving in the dark in there so we ran back to the car and made our parents drive to one of the houses so we could use their bathroom. It wasn’t much better, actually.

Oh, and there was this other year, I think when I was four or so, my mom and dad hosted a Halloween party. One of my uncles knocked on the door and when my other cousin and I looked out to see who it was, all we saw was his rubber devil mask. I think we screamed the house down, we were so scared. It’s funny now, though.

Anyway, via CBN.com

In middle school, I met some friends who introduced me to another world. They told me that they could contact the dead and learn hidden secrets about their lives. I’ll never forget the time I asked the ouija board who I would marry. It replied, “the Devil.” That’s when I knew that I was in a very dangerous place.

Did you ever wonder why Halloween seems to primarily feed off of a market of 3-13 year olds? This is a Satanic ploy for our children. I don’t think that Christian children should completely abstain from the festivities of costumes and candy, because they can be a light through their alternative behavior. [I personally plan on dressing my children up in Biblical and God-honoring characters that will draw people to ask questions.]

I’m talking to those of you who will be opening up your door to children of whom you do not know the state of their soul. Consider the gift that you offer them at your doorstep.

Lori D’Augostine suggests buying candy stamped with Bible verses. Yes, that’s going to solve the problem. There won’t be any rotten eggs in her mail box the next morning, or toilet paper in the trees. Yeesh. It’s obvious she, and others like her, don’t understand where Halloween came from, what it once meant, and what it still signifies in some countries – a festival to honour and celebrate death. Ordinary, every day death.

Halloween had its starts with the Celts. They used to celebrate the new year on November 1st. As to October 31:

This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

This was 2000 years ago, keep in mind. The druids would build a sacred bonfire and everyone would sacrifice some animals to their 100 plus gods. They’d dress up in animal skins and try and tell fortunes and then use the sacred fire to relight their hearths, believing the ritual to be a protection for the coming winter, a time of year when untimely deaths were pretty much a given.

When the Romans marched in, they brought their own festivals with them, including Feralia, which also happened to be a ritual commemorating the dead. Not hard to join the two together after that.

By the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints’ Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday.

How’s that for interesting? Kind of like what happened to the solstice celebrations, eh?. You can party, but you have to party in our God’s name, no dancing around for those heathen gods anymore. Bad! Bad heathen gods! We’ll call them evil just to make sure.

Now of course, most of the freaky evil dead stuff’s been leeched out (aside from horror movie moments) and little kids are stuck wandering around shopping malls at 4pm because parents are too scared to let them do proper trick-or-treating on dark streets around strange houses. I never went to any, but my home town did Spookarama parties for years, just like this event in Nipawin aimed at teens. Although girls at home used to bring alcohol into the dances by pouring it into rinsed out hairspray bottles. Girls and their hair, eh? Always wondered why they went to the bathroom in groups? To get trashed and talk about boys. Duh!

What about other countries? Where do they stand on Halloween festivities? I find it interesting that in Mexico, Latin America and Spain, they celebrate from the 31st to the 2nd, hoping the dead come for a visit.

Many families construct an altar to the dead in their homes to honor deceased relatives and decorate it with candy, flowers, photographs, samples of the deceased’s favorite foods and drinks, and fresh water. Often, a wash basin and towel are left out so that the spirit can wash before indulging in the feast.

Candles and incense are burned to help the deceased find the way home. Relatives also tidy the gravesites of their departed family members. This can include snipping weeds, making repairs, and painting. The grave is then decorated with flowers, wreaths, or paper streamers. On November 2, relatives gather at the gravesite to picnic and reminisce. Some gatherings even include tequila and a mariachi band! Celebrations honoring departed loved ones and family members are found as far back as ancient Egyptian times.

So why do many people like Ms. D’Augostine worry about Halloween and its effects on kids? I used to love Halloween growing up. A little fright was worth the candy, to my mind. My Catholic school put together great Halloween parties in the early ’80s. Toys and games and prizes to be won, a “haunted house” style thing. I think we’d parade in our costumes a bit, too. Maybe some parent would send their kids to school with home made cookies painted with pumpkins and skulls and black cats. One year a teacher came up with a brilliant craft – we peeled apples and let them wither and get all wrinkly and shrunken and then we added pointy noses and witch hats and eyeballs of some kind. They looked great all lined up on the windowsill.

I think Halloween is an important part of growing up. Death tends to be scary at any age and maybe having one day a year where we acknowledge its place in our life cycle isn’t such a bad idea. If a fear is out in the open, isn’t it going to be easier to deal with and understand?

I’ll end with a montage I found featuring one of my favourite Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes ever. It’s from “Halloween” in season 2. Buffy hopes to celebrate “Come As You Aren’t Night” by dressing up like a girl her vampire boyfriend, Angel, would have dated when he was alive 200 years earlier. But, she’s gotten her costume from Ethan, who’s pulled out some magic for the night’s entertainment as a tribute to the god of Chaos. When the spell takes effect, Buffy’s stuck thinking she really is an olden days girl, Willow gets ghostly and people in scary costumes start running amok! Suddenly it’s party time for all the vampires and the real monsters in town. But can Spike rid the world of the Slayer before the night is through?

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Canadian Atheist Basically ordinary Library employee Avid book lover Ditto for movies Wanna-be writer Procrastinator
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