Sunday, 31 October 2010

"Halloween"

Halloween is a fact of life. It’s not going anywhere, whether you like it or not. It can strike fear into parents of over enthusiastic children who like to ‘get creative’ with their costumes a couple of days before the night of a party, and then next year demand that they host their own festivities.
It can also divide people in a split second. There are a lot of debates around Halloween, some of which I have already seen get really quite nasty. (Seriously guys, you don’t agree with it, we get it, no reason to start calling people devil worshippers and bad parent. Come back to earth.)
What do I think about it? Well, let me tell you.

I was brought up in a Methodist household. I attended Sunday school, which was where I first learnt a very loose idea of what Halloween was all about. It was referred to as All Saints eve and we would decorate Autumnal pictures, dress up pumpkins and light candles to remember those who had passed on in a special remembrance service. Then at middle school as it was a C of E we were taught about what All Saints was, a celebration of all the saints in the Christian/Catholic church and how it had become a time to remember all dead as well as all saints. My school had the right idea here, as we were taught how it was celebrated all over the world and why. This only lasted for a maximum over two days but for a C of E school it was an exciting time for pupils, Something different!

The idea of Trick or Treating however was a different story. Both at school and at home it was classed as begging, and my parents would never ever even entertain the idea of dressing up. They have since relaxed and even buy sweets for the Trick or Treaters now. I am firmly of the opinion that they were just saying that to get out of the hassle of letting my brother and I celebrate it. I even said that to my mum today and she asked ‘Wouldn’t you do the same?’ My mother and I have a lot of very different ideas in life.

Then as I grew up my circle of friends grew and I was introduced to Paganism and Druidism. For years I celebrated Halloween as Samhain, The Celtic new year. It was the end of the light half of the year and the start of the dark half.

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To me, it meant a day out at Avebury with friends, Bringing with us loaves of specially made bread and cakes. We celebrated the last of the harvest, and the beginning of the new year. A time of great reflection and planning for the year ahead. We would have ribbons representing wishes for the coming year, and tie them to a specific tree along with hundreds of others, some ribbons hanging for years, clinging on for dear life. We weren’t really ones to join in with the chanting rituals, or group cleansing, or even wearing robes. We were happy sat in nice comfy warm clothes on a blanket somewhere sheltered from the wind (and usually rain) knitting and discussing affairs and our plans, lighting candles in crooks in the stones and keeping curious sheep away from our food. Some people, like you find in every religion, were complete nut jobs though. Safer for us to stick together and to ourselves. We did however join in the walk down the Avenue and into the stone circle, an impressive sight for bystanders. Actual new years day was November 1st. That was a day of mass cleaning and restocking cupboards. I suppose the ‘witchy-est’ tradition my friends and I had, would be the restocking of all the complimentary/herbal remedies. We knew people who would refer to themselves as ‘Green Witches’. To be honest with you, if they want to call themselves that, great, I couldn’t care less, but I just saw it as knowing how to use natural resources. For example, Manuka Honey. If you haven’t experienced the awesomeness that is Manuka Honey, you really are missing out. I am not saying however that you should shun modern medicine. Modern medicine progressed for the better for our benefit and I shudder when I hear people say that they will only ever use natural therapies on their children. That’s all I’m going to say on that. We would make our own bath soaps too, as well as the beeswax polish for housework. This had nothing to do with anything spiritual and that it was the first day of the new year so would make everything we did ‘Super good’, It was just a tradition.

And so today. I am not a Pagan or a Druid, but I believe in celebrating the lives of those passed on, I believe that it is the start of winter so the knitting/crochet/sewing needs to be stepped up a gear, I believe in having a feast to celebrate the end of the harvest season and I also believe that it is a fantastic excuse to have a get together and creates wonderful crafty times for children. When it comes to Trick or Treating, I don’t mind children making the effort with dressing up, going around with their friends, having fun and handing out treats and are in bed by 8:30pm. After all, what they are doing is harmless fun. What I do mind however, is beggars. I’m talking about the ‘kids’ who are too old for this, go around causing trouble, don’t bother dressing up or having the cheek to ask for money instead of sweets. It’s shameful, rude and disrespectful.

That’s where I stand. So whatever you class yourself as, enjoy the season, be safe and celebrate :) x

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