Sunday, October 31, 2010
Now a secular holiday for children, and fun loving adults, Hallowe'en or All Hallows Eve, began as a religious Celtic holiday, and then took on Christian overtones of showing respect for the dead, and became connected to All Souls and All Saints Days. These days, only Wiccans seem to give it much religious attention. In all traditions, Hallowe'en is related to the increasing darkness of fall, and the time of the death of nature, as the leaves fall and plants go dormant. This is supposed to be the evening when the worlds of the dead and living collide, ghosts walk the earth, witches and evil spirits are out in full force, black magic is dominant. Trickery and treachery loom!
Instead, now Hallowe'en is mainly a time for children to enjoy dressing up, being whoever they imagine themselves to be, expressing their creativity, and getting a reaction out of adults! The best reaction of course, is after the daycare or school costume party, and going door to door, wherever there is a Jack O'Lantern shining, and saying, "Anything for Hallowe'en? Trick or Treat!", and getting candy in return. According to my sister, who is a primary school teacher, Hallowe'en is more important and more exciting for children than any other holiday. All the children, including Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus she has taught, take the same delight in dressup and the costume party at school, that usually involves games and candy, too. Not all go out in the evening, depending on their parents' wishes, but the only ones who don't dress up for school are either Jehovah's Witnesses, or certain fundamentalist Christians, but they are in a very small minority.
Teens and adults enjoy costume parties, and some workplaces have a dressup day. Many have costume and pumpkin carving contests, and candy is in abundance. Teens and adults are also the ones manning the doors when the younger children come around. While home-made treats used to be common, and candy apples most prized, these days most parents only give out, and allow their children to eat, pre-packaged treats, which most often are candy, but may be small packets of potato chips or popcorn. I like to dress up (as a friendly witch) to give out candy, because the children are initially surprised, and then think it is a lot of fun that I do. I always tell the children how cute they look, or how terrifying, or that I would never have guess who was in the costume! Among my favourites are the ones who are so little they don't really understand, but are delighted! Some try to give me a candy in return, and some really persist until I take it, thank them profusely, and surreptitionsly return it to their mom.
New immigrants often seek guidance from teachers, neighbours, and friends as this is a particularly North American custom. My favourite new Canadian visitor was a Hispanic boy--with 6 adults in tow, all having a wonderful time, accompanying the one nephew on his loot collecting adventure. Hallowe'en is important enough to North Americans that expats usually organize parties for their children, and sometimes for themselves. When I was living in Hong Kong an American and a Canadian mother sent a notice around the building complex saying the children would be going through the building trick or treating and anyone who wanted to participate should put a decoration on their door, and they would only stop at those flats. Needless to say, many children from around the world had their first Hallowe'en experience--as did some parents!
Growing up, I liked to dress as a something involving minimal clothing and warm weather--eg, a dancing gypsy peasant girl, a hula dancer, a flamenco dancer...Alas neither my mother nor the climate cooperated with the exact realization of my imaginings. My mother insisted on my not freezing to death, which meant sweaterS over or under a costume. Definite crimp in my dancing style! The last year I went out, I was 12, and dressed as Cleopatra--long gold lamé dress, the least number of sweaters possible, a lot of blue eyeshadow, and my then waist-length hair flowing. For once it was relatively mild, and I was relatively unencumbered! I guess all done up I looked older than 12, and some mothers made remarks as if I were too old to be out trick or treating. My sister got the same remarks, even though she was only 10 and tall for her age. Needless to say, our family policy is to cheerfully greet all children of whatever age, size, and maturity level! Good thing too, because the last giant high school football player who came trick or treating was really the 10-year-old from down the street!
One fun Hallowe'en was the year my sister-in-law was visiting from Morocco. Her only Hallowe'en experience until then was watching the film ET. We carved pumpkins and put them in the window; and then, since we were in a condo where the "committee" were giving out the candy in the lobby, we were free to go out and walk around the neighbourhood. I insisted that we go to watch the children, and she was delighted with all the costumes, the enthusiasm and joy, and the decorated homes. Too bad she refused to dress up! We could have gone as Inuit dancers!
How about you?
Have you or do you celebrate Hallowe'en?
What are your favourite Hallowe'en memories/ activities?
What was your best costume?
What are your plans this year?
Any other comments, thoughts, impressions, experiences?