On the Bright Side
October 28, 2023
Some people I know look forward to Halloween all year. I'm not necessarily one of those people, but I do enjoy the Halloween holiday when it gets here, and all that goes along with it.
I've celebrated Halloween since I was a child, one way or another. As a youngster I loved to dress up and go trick or treating for candy, and I was still dressing in costumes as a teen and young adult (though not necessarily going to houses, usually going to school or club sponsored get togethers). Then when I had my own home, I loved handing out candy to younger trick or treaters, and I enjoyed more adult costume parties.
Then I worked for Big Sisters of Marin and created haunted houses for little sisters and brothers and their siblings. And after that I got into my own celebrations, especially of seasonal candy (and by that I mean the dreaded corn candy, yum!) and scary movies with friends.
And for a few years recently I've enjoyed acknowledging the Day of the Dead (Dia de la Muerte) on November 1 – a mostly Mexican holiday that celebrates a "family reunion" in which dead ancestors are the guests of honor. I loved going to the old cemetery on Lilac and seeing all the costumes and booths.
Now I live in a place that doesn't get trick or treaters, Day of the Dead is not celebrated, and parties and haunted houses are not my thing anymore. But I still especially like all the scary movies that come out in the month of October, both on the small screen and the big one, all leading up to the actual October 31st celebration of the holiday. (I've always been a horror movie fan – and an avid reader of the genre as well – so no wonder this is one of my favorite seasons.)
As for the season on Halloween, I like all the other stuff as well: the change in the weather, the coloring and falling of the leaves, the fallow fields. And I love that over the last few years more and more people have been decorating their yards and houses for the holiday. In fact, my least favorite aspect of this time of year is the shortening of the days and the longer dark nights, but then those too are part of the season.
I looked up some things on the Internet to learn more about the celebration of Halloween, which it turns out has been a thing for about two thousand years, when the Celts in Europe celebrated Samhain, a festival marking the end of the harvest and the beginning of a new year. The word Halloween came about from "All Hallow's Eve" as October 31 was the night before All Saints' (or All Hallows') Day on November 1, a Christian holiday to honor saints.
The scary part of Halloween can be traced back to the Celtic traditions, where Samhain (the God of Death, pronounced SUH-wane) scattered evil spirits around the earth. Jack-o-lanterns, then, were carved and placed in yards or windows to ward off those evil spirits.
Many of today's traditions – like candy and bats, for instance, don't ave a connection to the actual history of Halloween, but obvious connections can be made as the holiday has evolved. Trick or treating evolved from the tradition of people impersonating the spirits of the dead and asking for "rewards" in exchange for good fortune or favors.
If you're out and about celebrating this Halloween, be safe (and not destructive) and have fun!
I'll be happy bundled up in my recliner with the lights out and a bowl of popcorn on my lap, and a scary movie or two on the television.
© 2023 Mel Makaw. Mel, local writer/photographer and author of On the Bright Side, a Collection of Columns (available locally at Tehachapi Arts Center and Healthy Hippie Trading Co.), welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.