Well that time of year is almost upon us again – Halloween. Like many events around the calendar appears to have grown from a single-day happening into a ‘season’ that has been overtaken by commercial considerations. For similar read Guy Fawkes Night, and Valentines Day.
Legend tells us that October is the most important of days in the satanic year and once marked the Celtic New Year. It is significant in that it arrives at the end of the growing season and therefore became known as a ‘festival of death’. The modern-day North American custom of celebrating the day by ‘Trick or Treating’ is ironic in that it is now being exported back to it’s roots which were in Scotland and Ireland amongst the Celtic people.
I’m not sure how others feel about this resurrection. When I was a youngster the extent that we went to was in hollowing out a turnip as a Jack O’ Lantern, (notice no fancy pumpkins then). It was decidedly low key but then I guess many such things were in my youth. Not that we didn’t make the best of things, especially November the fifth celebrations. Nowadays we see large groups of children out on October 31, dressed up to some degree in costumes and following the North American custom going door to door – usually under the jurisdiction of a parent or two for the necessary safety considerations nowadays. I actually have no problem with this but personally would tend to prefer gifts of sweets and biscuits rather than hard cash proffered.
I’ve been fortunate to witness how things are done in Canada at this time of year. On the night and the night only note, it can be a lot of fun for kids and adults alike.Easily the funniest thing I ever saw was when staying with a friend who was a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force. He managed this night to procure a full set of parachute harnessing and to ‘hang’ himself from a large tree in the front garden much to the terror of the neighbourhood children!
Halloween can still be lots of fun. Perhaps one of the best one I experienced was while working in a local special needs school when the staff dressed up especially for the children. It was great to see the fun those kids were having and surely that’s the essence of it. For the adults, well come on gents, who doesn’t like to see and odd femme fatale witches costume at a party! Likewise it’s interesting to see the preponderance of ghost walks and events that have sprung up around Halloween. In this county for example a 7pm walk in a darkened Sherwood Forest is available. Who of us well past our school days wouldn’t enjoy that in spite of ourselves!
The only downsides I see are that it should be kept to one night – this keeps it special for the children too rather than diluting it as has happened with Guy Fawkes night when November 5th used to be a single-night crescendo. There is also the rising tide of vandalism and a little harassment to residents that has unfortunately seen Halloween used as an excuse. Let’s hope that unwelcome development will not ruin a festival that can still be a lot of fun for young and old.