Or more precisely, the angry rhetoric some people spout makes me giggle. Plus, positive stuff about Halloween.
Context first, I suppose. I don’t celebrate the 31st October in any context, for a couple of reasons. I don’t particularly enjoy Halloween; coming so close to Bonfire Night I’m usually looking after two nervous hounds scared by fireworks and every other random noise including strange people knocking at our door begging for sweets. That isn’t my idea of fun. Thus the secular event is of no interest to me.
Before it was a secular event, Halloween was a religious festival. I’ve written about it before, probably last year, so I won’t cover the topic again. Needless to say, I’m not a Christian, I’m a polytheist and my personal beliefs don’t include the celebration of Samhain, which is on the same day as Halloween. The relationship between the two religious festivals is more complex than the one replacing the other, but again, that was another post.
Thus the religious festivals are of no interest to me.
For me the rhetoric around Halloween is interesting. Most of the really amusing stuff comes from the U.S. where they seem to take it all very seriously, either as a religious event – some Christians and many pagans-, and as a social event.
From the religious there are an interesting variety of reactions. For those Christians who actually celebrate All Souls and All Saints Days, or those who celebrate Dias De la Muerta (I hope I’ve spelt that correctly?), it is a very important festival to be taken seriously. The same can be said of pagans, who I’ve noticed, are rather looking forward to it. Some celebrate the festival as the start of a new year, others as the final harvest festival before winter sets in, depending on the tradition. For both religious groups it it a time to remember the dead.
Then there’s the Bible Bashers, also known as fundamentalist/conservative Protestants, who rage that having anything to do with Halloween – even leaving a bowl of sweets out for kids trick or treating – is tantamount to devil worship. No True Christian, and all that stuff. You also see a different slant on the ‘worldy things are evil’ rants too. The ranters start bringing up paganism, usually betraying their gross ignorance of paganism, history and the origins of their own religion in the process. It gives me a giggle and I have to restrain myself from commenting on either type of blog post. I always want to pick apart their understanding of history, or ask if they’ve ever had a conversation with real pagans. I don’t though, it wouldn’t be kind; the culture shock might do them harm. Quite often the posts are tagged under ‘pagan’, which is how I get to see them; I don’t go looking.
As for the secular event, there’s a lot more emphasis now on Halloween than I remember as a kid here in the UK. Seriously, I was out buying toilet cleaner today and accidentally found the ‘seasonal’ aisles – full of Christmas and Halloween tat. It was only a few weeks ago that they were still flogging cheap camping kit. I am not impressed by your rubber rats, or the zombie buckets B&M, not impressed at all. In the U.S. I understand it’s even more popular. There are decorated houses and parties, and not just for children. As with every major festival – secular or religious – someone had commercialised it to make money. The capitalist urge has produced tacky decorations and not particularly pleasant sweets, and the demand that people spend money. What happened to a pumpkin from the local veg shop and making a costume out of whatever was in the cupboard? Some of my best were a mummy costume – white pyjamas and some crepe bandages -, and the headless ghost of an axe murderer (plain black clothes, hooded maternity cloak from the early eighties in tweed, a silver tray and a plastic toy axe. They wouldn’t let me have a real one). None of them cost anything because they were things we already had, plus some time and imagination.
Dressing up is, as everyone knows, an essential part of Halloween; partly because it’s fun and partly because disguise is an important part of both Halloween and Samheim. I saw a post on Facebook about a woman who wanted to find a costume for her young daughter and ended up writing an open letter to a costume company that went viral. Basically, all the boys costumes were realistic – doctor, fireman, policeman etc, all the girls costumes were ‘cute’ princess and fairies, or unrealistic professional costumes, like the policewoman who was barely covered up (children’s costumes!). The impression was given that girls should be pretty and not aspire to actual professions. It’s another aspect of gendered toys and the way they reinforce outdated gender roles. The feminist in me was appalled that were still telling girls they can only ever have value if they’re pretty and vapid, and boys that they must conform to traditional masculine occupations – what if he wants to be a princess?, and so was the part of me that objects to children being sexualised. Seriously, small children!
Halloween, because it does bring up this stuff, is actually a positive event, drawing attention to the physical manifestations of pervading and harmful cultural norms. Also, it’s fun if you like being sociable.
Other things I like about Halloween:
Gothic literature – this is always a good thing;
Horror movies – lists of, ‘Hocus Pocus’ is invariably on there somewhere. I shall be seeing Crimson Peak or Spectre near to Halloween hopefully;
My friends deciding who they’d be if we actually socialised enough to go to parties;
And last but not least, my sister’s ‘walking dead’ or graveyard themed front garden. She does a lovely job of decorating the garage door, and last year there was an inflatable ghost.
I’m going to.stop writing now, I have a cold, the dog has decided she’s sleeping on my pillows and my shoulder is a good pillow, and I really need to sleep because my eyes hurt.
For those who’ve been reading my mental health updates, today has been a better day.
I’ve managed three proper meals today and I’ve left the house for more than fifteen minutes. I even managed to do two loads of washing and remembered to get them in off the line before it got too dark. I did some writing today too. This counts as a good day for me. Small goals, little victories.