Oh, Halloween! How I love thee…! A day and night to be whoever you want, to be as creative as your artistic muse will help you to be, to play the role of any person, place or thing from any era of any part of the history of the world, especially if for the other 364 days of the year, you feel as though you can’t fully express yourself, for whatever reason or because of whatever limitation. At least, this is a part of what October 31 means to me.
Ever since my husband and I dressed our daughter up as a puppy dog for her first Halloween almost four years ago (I know that I am probably biased, but she was so adorable!), Halloween has become about so much more than the enjoyment I get out of it: Now, it is about making sure that she enjoys it, but furthermore, for me, Halloween is about fun, happy family memories, a few of which we have already created, such as when I took my little lady to the pumpkin patch at a local farm during her first fall, or that first year as a puppy when she laid on our lawn on a cozy blanket while we handed out treats, because she was only 7 months old, and didn’t yet have the ability to sit up. It is also about the traditions that the three of us have started together, such as seasonal crafts, including carving a fun face or image into a large pumpkin — this year, she choose a smiley face — or attending our annual neighborhood party thrown specifically for the younger children.
But, as with all things, even that which we most love has downsides. Halloween is not at fault though, for the con’s that occur with its arrival. I think sometimes when people don’t fully understand something, and/or don’t know the facts that lay behind it, they either inadvertently cause further murkiness on one side, or deem it bad and unworthy on another. This is where it makes sense to me to read up on a subject. How about a short history lesson?
The American Folklife Center (http://www.loc.gov/folklife/halloween.html) has an online article written by Jack Santino, called “Halloween: The Fantasy and Folklore of All Hallows,” which says that Halloween was begun by the pastoral Celtic as a festival of the dead called Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween), which was their most significant holiday, and marked the beginning of the year on their calendar, (as well as the end and start of “an eternal cycle”) but on our modern calendar is November 1. Their belief was that spirits of the dead were more present among the living during Samhain than during any other time of the year. Since this was also the start of winter, all livestock was relocated to closer pastures, and all crops were harvested, then stored.
Samhain was celebrated by sacrificing animals, gathering fruit and vegetables, and lighting “bonfires in honor of the dead, to aid them on their journey, and to keep them away from the living.”
“Samhain became the Halloween we are familiar with when Christian missionaries attempted to change the religious practices of the Celtic people. In the early centuries of the first millennium A.D., before missionaries such as St. Patrick and St. Columcille converted them to Christianity, the Celts practiced an elaborate religion through their priestly caste, the Druids, who were priests, poets, scientists and scholars all at once. As religious leaders, ritual specialists, and bearers of learning, the Druids were not unlike the very missionaries and monks who were to Christianize their people and brand them evil devil worshipers.” But isn’t that just humanity for you? Always labeling something as “wrong” just because we haven’t bothered to clarify, forcing others to do as we want them to, and in the end, there are many similarities anyhow?
“As a result of their efforts to wipe out ‘pagan’ holidays, such as Samhain, the Christians succeeded in effecting major transformations in it. In 601 A.D. Pope Gregory the First issued a now famous edict to his missionaries concerning the native beliefs and customs of the peoples he hoped to convert. Rather than try to obliterate native peoples’ customs and beliefs, the pope instructed his missionaries to use them: if a group of people worshiped a tree, rather than cut it down, he advised them to consecrate it to Christ and allow its continued worship.”
Of course, there’s more detail to the history than what I have included here (which you can read more of via the link to this article or other related writings), such as short explanation on how the Feast of All Saints, All Souls Day, All Saints Day and others derived from Samhain, or rather, from attempts to eradicate it.
In any case, the above translates to me as a time honoring loved ones by long-ago farmers who relied on the land, the cycles of life and nature in order to see each day, and in turn, each year. Until someone came along and not understanding or agreeing with them, took authority in bossing them around about their own personal beliefs.
As with all holidays that I can think of, Halloween has morphed considerably from its origins to what it is and how it is celebrated in modern day. Sacrificial animals might not be something everyone can wrap their thoughts around — I know it doesn’t sit comfortably with me — but in my eyes, there was no ill intent behind the birth of this holiday. Anything nefarious that correlates with Halloween is not derived directly from the date itself, but instead is the result of twisted persons that have added it in, tainting it for anyone who can see nothing but that stain. My feeling is that everything and anything is only about what you make it about and what it means to you. We all have the ability to take something positive out of any event, and then continue to present it in the same fashion.
In spite of Halloween’s standing as my favorite holiday, there are four major things that end up correlating with October 31 that I could do without:
1) Since when was Halloween about being sexy? I know that I am not the first person to make this point. Just the other day, Amy Poehler (whom I love, but who does not share my love of Halloween) was on Ellen and told this story about when she was 22 years old, attending an 80s Halloween party, she was the only female to NOT dress up as a Robert Palmer girl. (Not really my idea of sexy — or even slutty, but her message got across.) To me, there is nothing creative or even fun about a “slutty” anything. And we all know there is a slutty, or sexy, or naughty version of pretty much every costume that you can buy or make. There is nothing original about being a Slutty Nurse, if the chick next to you is a Sexy Kitten and the one next to her is a Naughty Maid. Excuse me, but arn’t all three of you beating around the same exact bush? Sheesh, get a job on a street corner already!
Seriously, the main disguise ends up not being a disguise at all as it is eclipsed by the base objective of showing more skin than necessary. I’m willing to bet that we need not take any bets that some of those ladies have the intention of getting a bit more than extra candy…and how!
Then, the initial idea is lost and you might as well just drop the other adjective, admit what you’ve really made it about, and say, “I’m going as ‘Naughty’ this year. Yes, just straight up ‘Naughty.’ I would certainly admire your honesty.
In addition to not being very imaginative, dressing sexy is moot. What I mean is, it can be done any day of the year. Halloween is not any day; it is a specific day. So, why not seize the opportunity to do something different? To dress up or in a way that you wouldn’t be able to all the other days?
I do want to share something humorous AND creative here before I leave this point, that was brought to my attention by my husband last night, which I think he saw on Twitter. Somewhere a gentleman melded imagination with sexy when he created his costume, Edgar Allen Ho(e). Here’s the link to the jpeg: http://i.imgur.com/sDlterD.jpg. Did you enjoy that, too? You’re welcome. Or rather, thank you, kindly to the man in the photo. I like this for so many reasons, starting with the literary reference and my personal love for Mr. Poe, all the way down to the tongue-in-cheek take on seductive Halloween get-ups.
2) Why should I be willing to buy candy for the disrespectful neighborhood children? I think it’s safe to say that most, if not all of us have experienced dealing with tiny terrors in our neighborhoods. You know the ones…their voices have the intonation of experienced and knowledgeable adults, which is ironic as they probably don’t have much of that surrounding them, they cuss, they ride their bikes hard up the sidewalk and in the street expecting all in their path to simply — poof! — vanish in thin air, they creep onto your lawn to vandalize whatever they come across, even if it is only a dinky pinwheel from the dollar bins at Target, they throw rocks at the vacant house behind yours because “no one lives there,” they litter like it’s a profession, they have no guidance or direction or love — from what you can see — and you both loathe them and feel sad for them, but don’t see why an entire community has to suffer their antics just because home life might not be what it should be.
And yet, you are meant to spend your wages on sweets to passively hand out at your front door to these little rowdy, rude, demanding vagrants?? Sweets that will probably further fuel their mischief? Honestly, who really wants these unruly Lord of the Flies youths on their step? I’m not a fan. I finally purchased ONE large bag of treats, even though every fiber of my existence was mad about doing so. And it’s a shame that this feeling is at all a part of a 24-hour period that I actually look forward to each year. It’s a shame that certain children — someone’s once-sweet babies — make me go on the defensive.
3) Why let negativity and hate ruin this day, when all of the other days of the year I work to prevent exactly that? Halloween Haters — as I have dubbed those who feel the need to spread negativity about an inanimate event and those that partake in it — are against Halloween and can not refrain from saying all sorts of ballsy things to you about it.
The example that comes immediately to mind for me is from last year when a 6-year-old girl that lives in my neighborhood stood on my step and told me to take down my decorations and burn them because her parents said that only devil worshipers celebrate Halloween. I inhaled sharply and counted to three, marveling at the so-called logic in this narrow-minded statement, as well as at the possibility that a parent would actually say something like this in their child’s vicinity. I also checked in with my mental calendar for the year. Unbelievable how slowly sections of humanity are to evolve…And…HI! NOT a devil worshiper, thank you. I couldn’t help telling this child that it was time for her to get off my lawn and return to her own home. But I did do it calmly. I did.
4) When will the outside world cease sending messages to our children telling them who they can and can not be? I made the mistake of allowing others — in fact, expecting others — to tell me who and what I was, and what I could and could not do for a sickeningly large portion of my earlier life. Since shaking that beastly habit and becoming a parent (which overlapped a little bit) gender specification is one of those things that pushes my buttons pretty quickly. When I’m checking out a product, if the marketing department is telling me via packaging, wording, etcetera that I can’t have it because it isn’t meant for me, I either buy it anyway and use it the way I want (hoping it burns someone’s bottom somewhere) or don’t buy it at all, because surely my money isn’t able either.
Certain costumes, I’ve noticed, are labeled as “boys” costumes and certain costumes as “girls” costumes. This pervades everyday life (if you let it, and I don’t let it, as you might already be able to tell.) So, when my daughter spotted a Sulley costume (a character from the Disney films Monsters Inc. and Monsters University) at our local BJ’s and decided instantaneously that that was who she wanted to dress as this year, I hesitated for a moment, then reminded myself what kind of parent I am: the kind that lets her kid be who she is now and always. And doesn’t let people who don’t even know us to tell us otherwise! You see, Sulley is marketed as a “boys” costume. I suppose this is because Sulley is a male character, voiced by John Goodman. But, bloody hell! Does it really matter? No! It does not. Casting the male label aside, (and mentally telling the company that produced the costume to sod off) I purchased the Sulley garb for my girl because I could see she was sure of herself, and my backing her decision would only add to her confidence and happiness. How could I not do that? As her mom, that is part of my job. We were looking for a costume anyhow.
Now even though my daughter is masquerading as a monster later this week, I do NOT celebrate Halloween to make myself or others fearful. (Anyone who has seen the films knows that Sulley is not only a softie at heart, but also not very scary looking.) In fact, I am not much of a horror person in general. Sure, I’ve been through a haunted house or two during my lifetime around this season, and I have seen probably a dozen scary movies. But, because I gravitate more toward comedy — and the ability to sleep at night — the only television programming that I watch on the regular that falls anywhere within that genre is the brilliant Ryan Murphy series, American Horror Story. I hope that loving quality writing of a talented gay man and his equally talented staff doesn’t make me awful. Surely, someone somewhere thinks it does. But, truly — I know it doesn’t.
Contrary to what others might believe, or perceive of those of us that like/love/enjoy/appreciate Halloween, I definitely do NOT celebrate it to honor anything bad or evil, or to commit bad and evil. I don’t need the validation of opinions of others to allow myself to enjoy this holiday, nor to know that I am a good and kind person who walks through this world everyday with the intention of treating others with compassion. That being said, there will still be Halloween Haters. There will always be haters of some sort over something. So be it. I’ll be creating fond memories with my daughter and husband while the Haters stew in their darkness.