Halloween is perhaps my favorite holiday – perhaps because it is so mysterious. People in many parts of the world now celebrate this “originally European” harvest festival, and have contributed to it with customs all their own.
Christians swear the holiday is Christian, linking it with the feast of all saints.
Celtic neo-pagans swear it has it’s origins in Samhain, (pronounced Saw-In) thought to be a feast of the dead – a Celtic new year, or a final chance to party before the brutal northern winter descended.
I often wonder if it has anything to do with the Greek Goddess Persephone, who was kidnapped by the god of the underworld.
He tricked her into eating food from his world, thus making it necessary for her to return to the underworld during the months of winter.
Her return to the world in spring was heralded by the return of life to the world and her departure in winter was when she took the life away with her. (I always thought that the god of the underworld and the souls of the dead that served under him, just wanted their fare share of fresh fruit* and sunlight.)
This idea though – the end of summer and decent of winter – probably inspired many such traditions in the more northern latitudes. When the snow comes, and nights grow longer – (sometimes much longer) then the days, it is probably natural to build bonfires and shiver at what ever mighty beast might be just hungry enough to give you a try . . .
Some link the holiday with mischief and devils – as many use the occasion to vandalize houses and get as drunk as possible – which may be another reason for the masks and costumes.
Egging – is when rotten eggs are broken on front doors.
The flaming bag of poop – is when dog droppings are put in a paper bag and left on someone’s door step. The bag is then set on fire and the door bell rung. The person answering is forced to stamp out the flames getting poop all over their shoes. (Wise homeowners smother said poop bag with a bucket.)
T P – ing – is when toilet paper is strewn about.
My home has only seen a few of these – mostly when my dad was still a teacher – so I really couldn’t complain.
The phrase “Trick or Treat” then, may be veiled threat, as less well behaved children may require bribes so as not to trash your yard.
Some say that the tradition of wearing costumes and begging for treats door to door, originated when persons too proud to admit their crops had failed, disguised themselves as beggars in order to collect alms from the wealthy.
Often these persons would dance, or play music, in exchange for receiving a charitable gift. My father has a theory that this “ritual begging” was expected of all persons, so that poorer folks would not be afraid to step forward and admit that they needed help.
For me this day has more to do with generosity then Christmas and Thanksgiving combined, for it’s a holiday that encourages us to share with strangers, be they monster or man.
For Me, Halloween is about acceptance.
All worlds are open and the visitors are all different.
Masked faces could conceal the living or dead, heroes or villains, angels or devils, or even an astronaut or an alien.
Man and beast walk together, neither eating the other ( for all can agree, that sugar is amazing.)
*The underworlders I’ve heard, are fond of pomegranates.