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Friday, October 31, 2008

In Defense of Halloween

I have friends all over the globe that I've met through writing. What I learn from them is invaluable. Their views and perceptions add depth to my writing that I couldn't do without. Despite our shared language and love of all things writing I've found that we don't agree on everything, especially holidays. Things that in America aren't questioned are almost unmentionable on the other side of the pond. Halloween is one of these holidays. While I carved pumpkins and made costumes my friend in England hung a "No Trick or Treat" sign and supported a Zero Tolerance law of trick or treating, it's seen as begging there.

We've gone back and forth on views and the whys and wherefores of Halloween. People point out the roots of pagan ritual and the fear of Satanic cults. I know even here in the USA not everyone celebrates Halloween. Some just have Harvest parties, others go all out for Samhain. Here's what I think....

Halloween is the Official Start of the Holiday Season. From now until March 16th (St Patrick's Day) there is nothing but parties and holidays. Once you see people in Halloween costumes you know Thanksgiving is only a few weeks off, and Christmas isn't far behinds.

America doesn't have the same views of Halloween as the Europeans. We don't have stone monoliths or traditional places to burn bonfires. None of our towns have been around for more than a few centuries. We don't have graveyards with bodies from the 1300's (well, archeology digs, not working church graveyards though). Our costumes mean something different. They aren't a way to scare of bad guys, it's a way to be silly.

All year long we work, our farmers tend to be serious minded people, and Americans are workaholics. But, come harvest, we don't have to worry about droughts or empty tables. the crops are in, our stables are full, and we have a chance to relax before winter hits in full. For many parts of the US, Halloween is the last chance to travel before serious winter storms hit. And so we goof off. We decorate, wear costumes to work and running errands (the grocery store was filled with adults dressed in costumes), and just have a laugh.

We call it Halloween, Harvest Time, and Samhain, but what it really means is a celebration of the hard work and the good year we've had. It's the balance of Easter, when we celebrate life and renewal. In our house Easter stretches from the Spring Equinox to Easter Sunday with decorations, cookie making, and gift giving. Easter kicks off the serious work season, we only have 3 major holidays between Easter and Halloween, and none of them are religious.

In the end, a day can only give it the meaning you allow it. Halloween can be a sinister time of fear, or a time to start the party and give gracious thanksgiving for our blessings. The Lord said there was a time to reap and a time to sow, a time to laugh and a time to cry. Halloween is a time to laugh, to be grateful for our bountiful harvest and delicious food, to be creative and have fun, and to kick back and hang out with friends.


  1. It's really interesting to see the US prospective on this - and one that doesn't just say, America is right and the rest of the world is wrong :)

    I can't say we ever really celebrated Halloween when I was growing up. There were fancy dress parties (costume parties) and kids still have them now, but Trick or Treating is still largely seen as begging.

    On the other hand, a lot of the people who don't approve of Trick or Treating think nothing of children asking for "A penny for the guy" come bonfire night.

    We obviously don't have thanks giving, we just had harvest celebrations in school.

    For my money, the holiday feeling starts when Rememberence services draw to a close around mid november.

    Then Christmas really kicks in when we put the decorations up on December 1st.

  2. What are the Remembrance services? I don't think we have those. We have Memorial Day in the spring, but not a mid-November holiday.

    And we don't have Bonfire Day, although I have heard of it.

    And, I admit, we're starting Christmas season a bit early at my house this year. We'll have the tree and decorations up before Thanksgiving because family is visiting from the Bitter North and we are exchanging gifts when they arrive.

    Last year we didn't celebrate Christmas until late January because my husband was away for the holidays.

    Whatever works I suppose.

    Enjoy your holidays!

  3. Rememberence day is another name for Armastice day - November 11th. It commemorates the end of World War 1, and it's come to be a day to remember all the men and women who have served. There's a big march past the main war memorial in London (The cenetaph) on the closest Sunday (This year it's on the 9th) and lots of smaller marches all around the country where people lay poppies as a sign of rememberance for those who died and have a minutes silence.

    I think it might be similar to your Vetran's day?

    Bonfire night remembers when Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliment in the Gunpowder plot. The King at the time said that bonfires should be lit all over the country to celebrate that the plot failed, and it's happened every year since. Guys - kind of like scare crows are made and thrown on the the bonfires. There's fire works and things as well - probably the closest you have is something like the forth of July.

    Happy Holidays - I'm glad you husband is serving close to home this year so he can celebrate them with you :)

  4. Thank you for defending the holiday, Lei!

    Halloween isn't my favorite, by any means, but it's still fun. Hubby loves it to pieces . . . just another chance to pull out costumes and not be looked at like he's a freak (mostly).

    You did a great job explaining our fascination with the holiday! IT'S JUST FUN AND LAUGHS for us. Thanks!

  5. Kim: We have Memorial Day to remember all those who have served. And Veteran's Day to remember those past and present who serve. DH hates veteran's Day because he is, officially, a vet. The VFW (veterans of foreign wars) hand out poppies on a monthly basis when they do their penny collection drives for charity.

    Guy Fawkes Day- well, obviously we don't have that because we don't have your parliment.

    Thank you for explaining!