Once upon a time, Halloween felt like a simpler holiday.
The ‘back in the day’ stories make some people roll their eyes and some nod their heads as they remember back to a time when things felt simpler and less dangerous, or suspect, or anything that gives parents the heebie-jeebies about this holiday. The truth is, Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, or Samhain, however, one knows it by, was a lot simpler at one point in time. In fact, the history of Halloween is rooted in Celtic traditions. Today, Halloween is celebrated in a few different ways by a lot of different people, but it feels fair to state that the Celts who helped to push the celebration of Halloween would shake their heads at what it’s become.
As one might have guessed, Christians, their leaders at least, couldn’t abide anyone celebrating anything that was not of their belief, and thus, All Saints Day was created. Whether one wants to believe that it was in opposition to the ancient origins that Halloween celebrated, or was simply another interpretation, is kind of tough to say definitively. But the fact remains that we commemorate an ancient holiday based upon the idea that one religion could not stomach the idea of sharing space with another belief system, which is kind of par for the course when it comes to religion. Halloween became a Christian-recognized holiday that was different enough from its humble beginnings as the Western Christian feast of all saints eventually became the normalized belief held by the majority of people. In other words, a colonial Halloween eventually sought to replace the ancient practices that had been held for so long.
Things change, years pass, and traditions that once appeared ironclad are eventually commercialized and therefore forced into the mainstream. Once a tradition held by hundreds, then thousands, is adopted by millions or more, it’s easy to see how the main point gets lost. It’s also easy to see how danger lurks in the hidden corners and folds of a celebration that was picked up by those who saw an opportunity to make a profit off of something that people enjoyed.
It’s a cynical view to take of a holiday that people have come to love so much and have pleasant childhood memories of, but hey, eventually we all grow up and realize the smoke and mirrors of childhood hide a few less-than-desirable truths. The Celtic celebration of Samhain is still around, and some people do still celebrate the day known as All Hallows Eve, but things have changed, and sometimes not for the better.
The differences between back in the day and now are significant
Thinking about how much Halloween has changed is kind of interesting, but also a little daunting in some ways. What started as a druidic practice of talking to spirits in Ireland has become a candy-infused holiday that’s barely defined by its origins any longer. It’s not all bad, but the act of communing with spirits and keeping them placated has taken on a very different appearance these days. The general idea of Halloween celebrations has changed since October 31 is now seen as a time of merriment and a time to scare the living daylights out of people. The origins of Halloween feel rather simple, but the Halloween festivities that take place in 2023 are far different from those that date back to the origin of the holiday. The celebration of All Saints is still very much a thing, but like everything, it has changed in a lot of ways.
Not only that, but this ancient Celtic festival used to be focused around a time of harvest, and the idea that the veil between this world and the next thinned considerably this time of year. The wearing of costumes was a common practice and wearing a mask to frighten away evil spirits, rather than scaring the living daylights out of people. One could say that once Christianity took hold of this holiday it all started changing, but it’s not tough to think that things would have changed anyway, like they always do. The main point to take away is that at one time, Halloween was a lot simpler, and despite being based on superstition, was a lot easier to understand. Now, it’s a sugar-infused month of mayhem that tends to culminate in a single night that ends differently for everyone. In all honesty, though, what used to be a time of harvest (and still is) has become a time of hilarity, pranks, and commercialized nonsense that many enjoy, but few really understand.
Prayers for the dead, feasts of the dead, and the respect given to the boundary between this world and the next are still beliefs that some folks hold onto, and for good reason. The passing of the dead is still a great practice that many have clung to, and the date of Halloween is still important to many. For many, Halloween comes with an agonizing slowness that is only fully appreciated once the day arrives.
Going out trick or treating used to be different
This is where a lot of older folks might nod their head and agree without fail, since it’s true that trick or treating was once a very simple thing. In fact, the giving of treats used to involve far more homemade treats such as popcorn balls, nuts, fruits, and even baked goods and such items as candy apples. That doesn’t happen anymore. Why? That’s kind of simple because people are afraid, and whether it’s right to be so or not is kind of irrelevant.
Back in the 80s, the trust of many parents was shattered when it was determined that Halloween candy was being poisoned or otherwise tampered with. This might sound more like a hoax that can cause hysteria and all sorts of problems, but sadly, it worked. Not only this, but the fear of child abduction, or other horrendous crimes, has forced a lot of parents over the years to ban trick-or-treating for their children. While Halloween wasn’t always so focused on children, the shift is one that probably won’t see a decline for a long time, if ever. Seeing to the safety of children on Halloween is important to many people, especially since the custom, a hallowed, Halloween tradition, is something that we’d like to pass along to the generations yet to come. And to be fair, by November 1st, a lot of kids forget the whole idea of the history of Halloween since the sugar high is beginning to wear off.
The safety of the children who don their costumes for trick or treating is paramount. Thankfully, there are still plenty of neighborhoods that are safe and secure, but the fact remains that many parents remember back in the day when a child could walk the streets gathering candy as opposed to now when the general idea is that one might need to hire a bodyguard for their kids to go door to door. There was a day when such things as soul cakes were normal, and people could trust each other. It’s interesting to think that such an innocent Halloween custom could be so perverted, but hey, that’s the time we live in. Halloween tradition is something that changes with each passing year, and not always for the better.
Were sexy costumes really that different?
Anyone taking a look into the past will see the obvious, that costumes were in fact quite different back in the day. Calling anything sexy decades ago meant something very different than it does now since the whole idea of a ‘sexy’ costume decades ago might have caused a huge uproar if a costume had shown anything other than the most modest portions of a woman’s body. Let’s be honest, many don’t worry too much about how men dress during Halloween since throughout history the label of ‘indecent’ has usually been affixed solely to women regarding how much skin is shown.
Around Halloween, women dress up in whatever they want, much to the pleasure of men, and this is seen as normal, which is all well and good. Halloween night is a time to expect women to wear the sexiest costumes, from sexy black cats to nurses to popular movie characters that are popular each year. But had a woman dressed in a sexy nurse outfit, a nun’s habit, or anything else that can be minimized and sexualized, it’s fair to assume that it would have become a big deal to many people. It’s not an equal issue between men and women, there’s no doubt about this, but the fact is that things have changed over the years. With the onset of societal changes and manufactured costumes, many women have no problem with showing as much skin as possible while dressing up for Halloween. Believe it or not, love is in the air during Halloween since many ladies might find their future husband on this night, especially if they share a sense of the macabre. So really guys…is it really worth complaining about? Most people would say no, at least until such sights are seen to affect children, but that’s another issue.
The actual meaning of Halloween has changed…duh
One might as well hang a giant neon sign over this idea and proclaim that it’s something that gets overlooked because it’s more obvious than a red-nosed clown in a room filled with habit-wearing nuns. The idea of All Hallows Eve was far different than the door-to-door pleading that’s done now. The harvest festivals that took place during this time, the rituals, and the rites were far different than the booze-soaked parties that happen now and the adherence to a holiday that is seen as a reason to embrace the spirits rather than ward them off.
Costume parties, ghost stories, and many other activities that people enjoy are far more normal than the festival of Samhain these days. Halloween is a holiday that has ancient origins but has become a day for children to go from house to house asking for candy, rather than a Gaelic festival brought to the USA by Irish and Scottish immigrants. Dressing up in costumes is still reminiscent of the past and is still an integral part of the Halloween season, but it’s a far cry from the first Halloween.
In fact, people take to embracing the spirits rather heavily on Halloween, since the changes to this hallowed day have been widespread and taken on many different meanings. At Radass we urge those of you celebrating Halloween to drive responsibly and take it easy when paying homage to the liquid spirits that are heavily worshipped this time of year.
Commercialization isn’t king, but it’s a useful distraction
The truth is that commercialization is one of the biggest changes in the USA, and throughout the world, in fact. Creating a demand that wasn’t there in the first place has been the desire of many who seek to make their fortune by serving the largest number of people imaginable for decades, perhaps even centuries, and in this day and age, corporations have found a way to make that happen. There was a day when Halloween costumes were handmade, treats were baked at home in the oven, and the decorations one saw were all constructed of cheap but colorful materials. That’s not quite the way things are today.
Some folks stick to the old ways and still do things simply, but thanks to the many commercial endeavors that have taken over throughout the years, the demand for new and improved costumes, mass-produced candy products, and decorations that make noise, move, and are far too life-like are higher than ever. Hell, there are decorations that talk to those who come within range of them with spooky, pre-recorded statements that are corny, but also kind of terrifying since anyone with an ounce of technical knowledge could figure out a way to record what they want.
Some adults might feel the need to look back and reclaim their youth
We grow up, we move forward, and we move on from many of the things we enjoyed as children. Right? It’s the process of becoming an adult, and it’s quite natural. But there are times when nostalgia creeps in and sinks its comforting fingers into our emotions where it then tweaks the memories we’ve either buried or put aside. In those moments, some adults feel the need to remember, fondly with any hope, the fun that they experienced back in the day. From the wonder of the holiday to the costumes, trick or treating, bobbing for apples, and perhaps even the afterglow that comes just before the sore, sugar-laden bellies, it’s tough to deny that Halloween is a great time that many still think is worth preserving.
Reclaiming one’s youth isn’t entirely possible, obviously. But finding the ability to live vicariously and enjoy the holiday through one’s children is still acceptable, so long as adults remember that they’re passengers on this particular ride down memory lane, not the drivers. True, Halloween has changed a lot over the years, and safety has become a huge issue. But the memory of what was, the experiences that made childhood so much fun, are still possible in this crazy world we live in. We can’t necessarily bring back the ‘good old days’, but we can at least allow those memories to influence the experiences of today.
Even the movies are different, but that’s okay
It was easy to guess that this subject was going to come up, right? Hollywood has been pumping out scary movies of one type or another for decades, and while things have gotten better in some years, they’ve changed with the advent of technology and the rise of horror fans who have demanded more thrills and chills with every new addition to the horror genre. The truth is that not every horror movie is geared toward the idea of Halloween, but this is the time of year when people want to be scared the most, and filmmakers have been keyed into that for a while. Classic horror is something that a lot of people still value, but like everything else, it’s been changing. Horror isn’t confined to the Halloween holiday, but typically, Halloween movies are considered a part of Halloween this time of year and are therefore at least somewhat exclusive. There are a lot of Halloween parties out there that are heavily focused on this simple idea, and will amass a wide selection of movies to play from day to night in an attempt to keep the mood going.
Unfortunately, keeping people entertained is not as easy as it sounds sometimes. At one point in time, movies could scare the living daylights out of people because individuals hadn’t seen this level of horror yet. Movies with killer clowns, immortal murderers who don’t stay dead, dream demons, and all types of ghouls and goblins and creatures that go bump in the night, simply aren’t enough. True, a lot of folks still get scared if someone says ‘boo’ from around a corner at the right moment. But the movies of back in the day, when compared to those of today, are often seen as corny and ‘classic’, which is usually a nice way of saying that they paved the road but are no longer quite as relevant. There are millions of opinions about horror movies these days thanks to the coming of YouTube and several other platforms that can host horror movies of all caliber. But the point is this: the movies have changed because the desires of the people have changed.
People want more, no matter if it’s gore, horror, or controversial material that drowns out the real world for a couple of hours. The movies of today aren’t all bad, but the fact that they reach for shock value instead of a true, underlying story, well, that’s kind of obvious within the first few minutes of many horror movies. It’s easy to shrug your shoulders and just enjoy the thrill, but from a certain standpoint, horror movies are, for lack of a better term, predictable.
Halloween is different for everyone
At the end of the day, Halloween is celebrated by a lot of people in many different ways. From a festival of the dead to a friendly bonfire to the chance to carve a few Jack o lanterns, this is one of the most fun-filled holidays of the year. Halloween began simply, and over the years it became popular for many reasons. The fact is that some still treat it as a time of harvest, and others see it as a month of pranks, costumes, candy, and horror that is meant to fill the needs of those who are happy to be frightened and titillated in several different ways. Is any of it wrong? That’s kind of up for grabs when getting into the idea of whether people are observing something in a ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ way. Holidays these days are up for interpretation since more than one generation has experienced them in their own way.
Honestly, learning the origin of a holiday sounds like a great idea when it comes to understanding how it came to be. But moving forward, a mild nod to the past, out of respect, feels like it might be enough while people find new and, hopefully, safe ways to scare themselves and others.
WTR? (Why’s That Radass?)
A lot of people love Halloween for their own reasons. The only wrong way to do this involves actively hurting someone, and here at Radass, we’re all about pointing out the coolest aspects of the world while promoting the most entertaining ways to experience them. In that regard, we hope that you’ll have a radass Halloween and above all, stay safe while getting your thrills. Happy Halloween everyone!