Halloween, 31 October; has become very popular in the UK in the past 15 years. There are loads of pumpkins at the shops and many different costumes available along with loads of candy for little ones out for an evening Trick or Treating. Until a few years ago the tradition of trick or treating and dressing up in costume was viewed as strictly an American pastime and people were wary of opening their doors to people sporting the phrase ‘Trick or Treat, on a crisp autumn night.
As our country has become part of the global community with the advent of the internet and advancing technology, what our children watch on TV has expanded to what our children watch on the internet and the pastime has blossomed.
In fact, Halloween has been known in our Celtic based country for centuries – sometimes as All Hallows Eve, sometimes Samhain. Winter is approaching, leaves are falling and dying and the days are getting much shorter and colder. Our Celtic ancestors did not fear the dark and cold or even death. They looked upon it as an opportunity to bless the seeds for the following year which would germinate and bring the crops which would feed them when the sunshine returned. This time was known as a time when the veil between the living and the dead was especially transparent and people could communicate more clearly with their dear ones and ancestors who had passed to the realm beyond.
When I was a child going for some time to a catholic school in the USA; Halloween was frowned upon as something evil and sacrilegious and we were pointed to pay more attention to 1 November which was called All Saints Day. The second of November was known as All Souls Day. I used to say that I wasn’t just able to talk to the Saints but all of the souls good and bad on the planet as it was my birthday on November 2.
Then I became aware of the Mexican Festival known as the The Day of the Dead which also is celebrated on 2 November. This is a day when they believe that the souls of their departed loved ones return to earth to visit us and give advice to the living and the day is set aside to honour those who have passed on. It is popular on this day to visit the gravesites and also there are many huge festivals where there are many scary costumes and children eat sugar candy shaped into skulls happily. It is not meant to be scary but gives the children the idea of that death is a natural part of life and to appreciate every moment and to be free in their hearts and live life with freedom and joy.
This festival is known have evolved as a mixture of pre Hispanic indigenous cultures and Spanish Catholicism. The nature of the Mexican festival makes sense of children going out for candy. Both traditions born on different continents with seasons recognize these few days as a time when it is easier to communicate through the veils of time.