Sunday, October 26, 2014

Halloween: A Wierd And Pointless Celebration?

Since no one gets the day off, how can we call Halloween a holiday? And since it doesn't commemorate some inspiring historic or religious event, how has it become one of the most popular celebrations of the year, right next to Christmas?

Follow the money.

When our children were young, their costumes, and those of most of their friends, were usually improvised and homemade.  Now, according to the National Retail Federation, Americans (the US ones) spend over $7 billion each year on commercially marketed Halloween treats, decorations and outfits, including $350 million spent on costumes for pets. Over one-fourth of all of our annual candy purchases are in connection with this event.

According to the website, in the eighth century Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a day to honor the church's saints and martyrs. All Saints’ Day, as it was called, was meant to replace some of the pagan practices associated with the observance of the festival of Samhain (sow-in), observed on the eve of the Celtic New Year, which was October 31. This non-Christian observance marked both the end of the summer and the end of the calendar year, and signaled the start of a cold and harsh winter, a season often associated with death. On this night before November 1 the ghosts of the dead supposedly returned to roam the earth, often doing damage to crops and causing trouble in general.

In spite of the Pope's efforts at Christianizing this observance, our celebration today remains a lot more like the ancient Samhain than a time to remember our deceased ancestors on the eve of All Saints Day, or All-hallow-tide. "Hallow-e'en" (Holy evening) may as well be called Hollow-e'en as far as it having any Christian significance.

Perhaps some Halloween customs that have evolved over time are harmless enough, like that of children (and barely grown-ups) dressing up in masks and costumes and stalking the neighborhood for huge quantities of sweets. As such it may mostly have become a dental health hazard, but the whole thing does seem a bit weird and pointless, if you think about it.

But having said all that, here at Hamlet Drive we're likely to again keep our porch light on for our grandchildren and for the kids next door to stop by for some sweets.

Is that OK?
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