Halloween was invented to build American communities. It is a mangled mess of Celtic and other traditions from parts of Europe and northern America. It now feels like a corruption and exercise for fleeing money. I know multiculturalism makes Australia great, but shouldn’t we take the best of each culture and not the worst!
Most know the word Halloween is derived from All Hallows Eve. This is the night before All Hallows Day, which is now known as All Saints Day.
The Roman Catholic Church placed All Saints Day at the start of November, arguably, to coincide with the Celtic celebration of Samhain. Connecting one celebration to another was seen as a way to help convert people, rather than to make them stop having their old celebrations.
Samhain was a ceremony Celts held to ward-off evil spirits. Around the end of October natural seasons begun to change in the northern-hemisphere, moving from warm light filled days to long cold nights. The approach of winter meant an increase in deaths and poor farming and was considered a dark time (that’s a pun!).
The mystic side of Halloween originated with Samhain, though many other European and some northern American superstitions have since been incorporated into Halloween. This muddled mess is partly due to the Catholic Church’s work to remove other cultural practices in favour of their All Saints Day. It is also because Americas used All Hallows Eve celebrations as a community building event.
Example: have you ever had a new kid at school? Did they stand in front of the class and talk about where they’re from? Let’s say that kid was from Poland and the national Polish day was approaching. Your teacher might have organised a little Polish national day celebration to make the child feel welcome. Maybe a lot of Polish kids joined the school. Maybe a lot of Polish people joined the community. Well…
As immigrates to America rose, particularly from historically Celtic parts of the world like Ireland, All Hallows Eve celebrations became more prevalent. American newspapers and towns-people began deciding and promoting acceptable practices of Halloween so everyone could enjoy, basically assimilating cultures.
– Food was no longer left out to pacify evil spirits or allowed to be traded to the poor in return for prays, it was handed to kids who dressed stupidly
– The Roman goddess Pomona was no longer identified for providing fruit trees and gardens, kids boobed of apples (at first only girls but that was seen to excluded boys)
– Dressing as Saints and angles was removed because that was too religious, people dressed as creatures and later comic book characters.
American Halloween became a homogenised event that is now worth billions to the American economy. Remnants of tradition exist in formerly Celtic parts of Ireland and Brittan, but these are dwindling as the mass production of Halloween things continues. It is a juggernaut that is now on Australia shores (a bit like the cane toad).
It seems really stupid that in Australia’s sun, with blooming flowers, warming weather, horse racing, and reasons to be jovial, some people are trying to get spooky. Following another’s culture can help welcome them, but all this promotion is surly not about welcoming Americans. It’s about money. And if people want to enjoy grim festivities can’t we embrace a good one?
Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, is what Mexicans do when when Christian’s tell them to celebrate their hallowed people. When the Church introduced All Saints Day in Mexico the Mexicans don’t focus solely on the Saints, they spent time celebrating the lives of people they knew. As sombre as death is they intend to have colour and rejoice in the memory of life. They don’t fear the dead because the dead should hold no grudges.
The Day of the Dead was not built for trading or finance. It is for remembering and joy. It is an idea I like and wish, despite the onslaught of American sitcoms, that if Australia is to engage in grim imagery this time of year it is not selfishly for lollies and money; but rather for the grim fandango of Dia de los Muertos and to remember past family.
For more historical Halloween detail check out these sites:
PS: Actually, I’d rather have a Spring time fest – in keeping with it being Spring in Australia during October.