31 October 2007

My views on Halloween

Every October 31, we make our annual pilgrimage to Tony Packos in Toledo.

You remember Tony Packos? In the M.A.S.H. television series, Corporal Klinger mentioned it often. It's a Hungarian restaurant, and Klinger waxed eloquent about their hot-dogs. We stopped in the first time because we were in the neighborhood and we wondered whether it would live up to the hype. It didn't. It's OK -- pretty mediocre, but not outright bad. But it is an adult oriented restaurant.

So every October 31, we go there. Mostly because it's an hour away in Toledo, making it easier to be busy and out of the way of the "festivities" we don't want to expose ourselves to between 6pm and 9pm. We darken the house, close the gates for the only time all year, and drive for an hour, eat for an hour in a restauramt that blessedly seems to have fogotten what date it is, and then drive home for an hour, arriving home after the last of the revellers has gone home to bed or out to the bars.

Why all the effort? As witches, aren't we supposed to love Halloween?

Well, a lot of witches do love it, but frankly, Rod and I don't enjoy Halloween at all. I find the whole thing disturbing and somewhat offensive. I don't particularly mind that people who see it differently than I do want to celebrate, especially now that they've stopped trying to insist that I have to play, too. But I really want no part of it, myself.

Like so many other holidays, Halloween started out as a pre-Christian celebration. The Celts called it Samhain, and it was the celebration the final harvest and of death. When the Christian church entered the scene, they preferred to call the day All Saints Day or "Hallowed evening". But the the notion of dead folks wandering around wasn't so easy to quash, and the church had to find a way to deal with it. The combination of fear and misunderstanding between very different cultures left us with a mish-mash of ideas, none of which make a lot of sense when thrown together out of context.

The celebration of the final harvest and the honoring of the the dearly departed has morphed into a candy-fest featuring horrific images of death and highly fantasized images of magic and witchcraft.

Our major objection to Halloween as it's celebrated now start with the whole problem of the glorification of violence and the desecration of death's sacred nature. This time of year is indeed focused on death, just as spring is focused on birth. We honour the entire cycle of life, including death. Making one part of the cycle (birth) "sacred" and another (death) "scary" seems wrong. Add to that the "devils night" antics and the destruction of property that seems to have taken root in this time of year and the whole thing becomes pretty repulsive.

We also don't like the idea of children being fed on pounds and pounds of sugar. Yep, it's their parents call, and we honor that. But we don't want to poison your children and "healthy" treats will be thrown away, so we'll just opt out, thanks. (We have at least one friend who offers books to the children who come to her door -- and that is a great idea! If we ever get past our other objections, that's probably something we'll adopt.)

The idea of begging from strangers isn't a really great model to give kids, either. We prefer that our child be raised to be a contributor because in the end, that will make him much happier. If this was a once a year phenomenon it might pass muster, but name a single day of the year for which the children aren't conditioned to expect to be indulged ...

Then there's the commercialization problem -- people spend hundreds of dollars on this non-event every year! Hundreds of dollars for two hours of revelry on a holiday that has lost any real significance. It's insane!

What about the costumes? Those, I just don't understand. I think playing dress-up is great, but why limit it to once a year? And why focus on someone else's idea of a good costume, when there is a whole world of good ideas outside the costume shops? I have one friend whose children dress in costume on any day they wish -- now *that* is fun and imaginative! Jack hasn't shown any particular interest in costumes so far, but if he ever does, he won't be limited to this one day a year.

Rod adds to this list his objection to the appeasing of the spirit world with gifts, the trivializing of magic, and the typecasting of witchcraft and the supernatural as something perhaps frightening, or evil, but most definitely "other".

No we are not Disney Witches, nor even a Hogwarts graduates. This godawful trivialization, distortion, and commercialization of death and magic is something we just don't want to be a part of. So, we're going to enjoy our journey to Tony Packos.

See y'all tomorrow, when some semblance of sanity has returned.


  1. Hmmmmm....I'm so conflicted! As a fellow Witch, I completely agree with some of your points. Especially about glorifying death & violence- I can't stand gruesome, gory costumes & decor. But at the same time, the idea of costumes and of going door-to-door *are* remnants of Samhain traditions. So, I don't want to go so far as to throw the baby out with the bathwater there. That said, I LOVE the book idea and will give that a whirl next year. Have a blessed Samhain, no matter how you choose to honor it. :-)

  2. *Heh* I can certainly understand your feelings, Stefani. if mine were an intellectual reaction, I'm sure it would be equally conflicted -- but I have felt this way since my very first Halloween.

    We happily celebrate Samhain, and we consider it a different thing from Halloween.

    And, as I mentioned, I have absolutely no problem with other people celebrating Halloween in whatever way they see fit - -it doesn't bother me a bit as long as I don't have to play. It's not "evil" ... just not in keeping with *my* beliefs.

  3. Hi Misti - as always, I appreciate your viewpoint, as I learn a lot. I think that the noticing that Rod and Jack just started is a great concept.

    I thought I'd share my thoughts with you. This year, we gave out some candy, mostly to the older kids, but also had fruit snacks, pretzels, halloween bubbles and little halloween frisbees. A lot of the kids picked things besides candy and a lot of the parents seemed grateful and commented that it was great that there was another offering.

    My baby is only 1 but her gramma has been buying used and after-season Halloween costumes and accessories for the last few years for the grandkids to use whenever they want to play "dressup", put on plays, etc. Most of my friends with little kids get use out of their "Halloween" costumes year round as well or vice-versa - stuff that they wear for play gets morphed into a costume of some sort.

  4. Thanks for your comment, Jessica!


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