As a child, Halloween signified my favorite time of year: autumn. The vibrant colors in the Northwoods of Wisconsin meant it was time to purchase pumpkins and carve out crooked teeth and uneven eyes. It meant dressing up in costumes, most of the time buried under winter coats, hats and mittens. It kicked off the season of being allowed to eat too much sugar and get cavities.
In my twenties, Halloween was a time to get dressed up in a sexy cat costume and attend parties with gory costumes, such as a rabid bunny with blood on its fur. It meant hating that couple who always dressed up in cutesy matching costumes, such as Shrek and Fiona. It also meant counteracting that cuteness by dressing up as a crack whore with a gunshot and a pimp wearing a white tank coated in blood. It was the time to stay out late and sleep in because responsibilities were minimal.
In the last fifteen years, it’s become all about blowing too much money on my children’s costumes because I can’t do more than sew on a button. It’s filled with trick-or-treating in our neighborhood, the kids knowing which houses give out the best candy. It means we’ve become that family dressing in a costume theme (one year, the Simpson’s). We hand out candy to kids whom we know, retiring to bed shortly afterwards.
History of Halloween
Despite all the ways I’ve celebrated Halloween, very little of it reflects the rich history of the holiday. About 2000 years ago, the Celtic celebrated a holiday called Samhain, which translates to “summer’s end.” It is believed this was a communal meeting time at the end of the harvest season, the purpose of which was to prepare for the winter months. The Celts also believed, because of the transition of seasons, the line between living and dead blurred, enabling the Celts to communicate with the dead.
Celtic territory was conquered by the Roman Empire in 43 A.D. Over the course of history, Samhain was combined with other Roman festivals. Eventually, approximately 1000 years ago, after many evolutions, the Catholic church decreed November 1st to be All Saints Day, a day to honor saints and martyrs who have died. It’s believed the Catholic church did this to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, church-approved holiday.
Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder
That brings us back to the original question: Is Halloween good or evil?
Like most things in life, it’s what you make of it. Your beliefs will shape your perspective of evil versus harmless, and you will or will not celebrate accordingly.
I don’t think Halloween is evil. I’ve never sacrificed a black cat or concocted a potion in a cauldron. My childhood costumes were innocent and age-appropriate. And now, I enjoy the costume parade at my children’s school each Halloween morning.
Halloween was and continues to be my favorite holiday and I don’t see anything wrong with celebrating it.
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