It’s not as so far gone as some folks might think, but it’s fair to say that once big businesses got hold of it that they were bound to cash in on the celebration, much as they tend to do with everything. But hey, that’s the way things happen, and people are free to do and buy what they want so long as they have the money to pay for it. There’s no need and no use in begrudging folks their love of Halloween, especially since the ancient practices aren’t completely dead. Seriously, getting all dressed up in one costume or another is lost on a lot of people when it comes to the underlying reason, but it’s still keeping with tradition, believe it or not. Yeah, I can imagine that a lot of people don’t believe it, but let’s discuss this for a bit.
What is Halloween all about anyway?
To make a long story short, we have the Celts to thank for Samhain, the harvest festival that was formed around a great deal of belief and superstition that is still followed, in some way, to this day. If you really look around you’ll see that we’re still following the ancient ways in a very different manner and with a very different set of motivating factors. Where the costumes used back in the old says, which were much more rudimentary as one can imagine, were meant for a couple of purposes, today they’re used as a means of impressing other, namely the living, as the belief in the spirits has come to be something of a trivial means to an end to sell movie tickets and inspire storytellers to create one terrifying tale after another.
Do I believe in spirits? You’d best believe I do, but whatever power they might have once held has definitely diminished with the belief, thanks to many different factors that have gone into changing Samhain to All Hallows Eve to Halloween, and everything in between. At one time the Celts believed that during the transition from summer into fall and into the winter, the doorway between the spirit world and our world was thinnest, meaning it would allow spirits of all types to pass through the unseen veil that separated our two realms. While people were all about welcoming their deceased ancestors into their homes to honor them, they wore masks and costumes to ward off unwanted spirits. Imagine if your ancestor was an unwanted spirit, that would have been a Catch-22 like no other.
What is Halloween about now?
That’s a question best posed to the candy companies and Hollywood these days since between the insane number of horror movies and the humongous percentage of candy that’s unloaded during this holiday, one might think that it was an invention of the candy companies that spiraled out into something else. In all honesty between the three big holidays near the end of the year, the last three months might as well be called Cavity Countdown with the amount of sugar that’s being circulated among the population.
And the costumes…well, we can’t really rag on the costumes too hard since despite the fact that they’re not used to ward off evil spirits any longer (yeah, YOU try being warded off by a hot woman in a tight-fitting costume, best of luck) they’re still meant to impress and to serve a purpose. You would almost think that with the cold, the alluring costumes, and the amount of booze that’s also present at many adult Halloween parties, that there would be a lot more births in July and August. Do the math, it makes sense. In short, Halloween has become less about the harvest festivals and the old ways and more about the consumerism that’s run rampant throughout the country. The old ways aren’t dead, but they’re definitely not seen as relevant any longer, and worse than that, they’re seen as something that people routinely mock since they don’t fully understand the practices or don’t care or both. To be even clearer, as the years continue to pass by, it would appear that we’re actively forgetting the reason why such a holiday as Halloween exists. Do I sound a little irritated by this? Kind of, yes, because it means that we’re willfully forgetting the reason why certain things started in the first place, but shouting this to a world that doesn’t appear ready to listen is kind of pointless to be realistic. The upside is that so long as there are enough of us that remember how things used to be, at least from a scholarly standpoint, there’s a likelihood that we can preserve it.
Let’s be honest, Halloween is still a lot of fun.
As much as I’ll gladly call out people for thinking that the holidays are all about getting drunk with friends, eating candy and sweets, and basically just having fun without having to think about the history of it, I can admit that this holiday is still a lot of fun. The truth is that people have the right to celebrate one holiday or another as they will, and if they end up looking like a blithering idiot because they don’t understand the beginnings of the holiday and why it’s important, then that’s on them. But in the meantime, keeping that font of information in the back of one’s mind is usually advantageous enough if it ever comes up, while deciding to have fun is one of the best ideas on a holiday like this. There are still plenty of ways to enjoy this holiday, such as:
- Trick or treating- C’mon, if you have kids, are a kid, or are a teenager or just someone that wants to have fun, there’s usually something to do that’s geared toward your age group on Halloween. Adults can head to the bar or to a friend’s house, or go trick or treating with their kids, while kids are definitely catered to during this holiday season as they get to dress up like their favorite character and hope against hope that one house after another will spring for the big candy bars instead of the little, bite-sized things that are barely good enough for a toddler. Hey, at least I’m being honest.
- Harvest festivals-In some towns one can’t throw a rock in any direction without hitting at least two or three pumpkin patches that allow people to pick their own pumpkins and perhaps even enjoy a few games or attractions that cater to families and anyone that just wants to have fun. A lot of these farms tend to have their own stores that will sell baked goods that are made in their own kitchens, apple cider that’s freshly pressed, and other delights that the family will love. Sugar, just keep in mind, SUGAR is the name of the game this season. But some festivals get kind of fancy and have hay rides, corn mazes, zip lines, and even live entertainment if you’re lucky. It might get kind of crowded, and it can certainly get expensive, but for a day out with the family that provides a great memory, this is one of the best ways to go.
- Old traditions-Granted, this could mean pretty much anything that a family likes to do during the holiday season, since tradition is important to a lot of people, myself included. Yes, I took my family to one of the many festivals this year, like every year, and it was a lot of fun. But older traditions that have more to do with Samhain and follow the old ways, are still practiced believe it or not. It’s not something one might see on a common basis, but there are those that love to keep the old ways alive and kicking since like I mentioned above, there are those that enjoy keeping the memory of the old ways alive. It’s all well and good to be honest, but if you happen to attend a festival such as this, do yourself a favor and start running if they begin drawing pentagrams on the ground, since this isn’t the time of year to f*** around and find out if any unwanted spirit is going to answer the call.
There’s plenty to do during Halloween for kids and adults alike, and those that are still into the holiday are bound to find something that will tickle their fancy since businesses around town are always going to want to be up on whatever gimmick comes along that can make them just a little more money. Plus, for the cynics, it’s also football season, which coincides nicely with the Halloween season, meaning that there are always new and marketable ways for businesses to make money while pushing whatever holiday it happens to be at the time.
It still has to be said.
I don’t want to be a killjoy, but during this time of year, it is common for people to get stupid and do foolish things simply because the holidays awaken something in them that overrides their better sense. In other words, if you do go out for Halloween and decide to get good and drunk, be safe and call an Uber or a Lyft, or have a friend drive you home. No matter how it started and how it is now, Halloween is meant to be a fun and uplifting holiday. Otherwise, suit up, costume up, and enjoy the night when it comes around!