I have often felt that Halloween is the holiday that is rather overlooked. Summer is well and truly over, Christmas is eight weeks away; Halloween can tend to slip through the cracks and pass us by with nothing more than a few extra sweeties or maybe the annual viewing of Hocus Pocus.
It was only last year, when I spent October 31st with a bunch of Canadians and Americans that I realised just how much we are missing out on.
Halloween is the chance to let your creative side run absolutely wild. Slather on that eye liner! Carve up that pumpkin! And if you are like me – your artistic abilities rival those of a chimp – then you have that old fall back, “It’s not meant to be pretty, it’s scary”.
Although the North Americans went all out on the party planning, I discovered that this concept of turning everything dark and bloody was entirely new to them. When I asked my friend what she wanted to be for Halloween, she told me, a ballerina, to which I replied, “Oooh, the Black Swan. Good one.” She said, “No, no, a normal ballerina. I want a little pink tutu and a cute little bun.” I proceeded to tell her that that wasn’t very scary which led to her staring at me with a completely blank expression before saying, “Well… no… it’s not meant to be.”
And so began my history lesson. Halloween is an ancient Pagan festival that began in the Celtic-speaking countries. It marks the end of summer and the harvest season, and the beginning of the darker winter. It was believed that at the time when nature was dying, the walls between this world and the world of the spirits were weaker. For one night only, the souls of the dead would return home and they needed to be welcomed. Bonfires were lit, offerings of food and drink were made, and prayers were said for the souls. The night of ritual became a night of song, dance and games. If the souls did not receive such hospitality then they would wreak havoc – livestock, and sometimes people, may not survive the winter. By the 16th century, some people were beginning to dress up as spirits of the departed and knock on doors to receive the offerings of food. If they were not accommodated then they would take it upon themselves to cause mischief. And so trick-or-treat was born. Contrary to what many may believe, Halloween is not an entirely unreligious event. Roots of the festivities can also be found in the Church’s three day celebration of the saints, beginning on All Hallows Eve.
Somewhere along the way – and my guess is fairly recently in the timeline of events – Halloween has entirely lost its meaning. It has become a night of fancy dress rather than terror. Regina George of Mean Girls fame had more of an impact than she knew when she said, “Halloween is the one night of the year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girl can say anything about it.” My friend was astounded to find out that she had been doing Halloween wrong her whole life. I told her tales of egging houses, covering the village hall in toilet paper (after explaining what on Earth a village hall is), and parties with apple bobbing, what’s-in-the-box, and everyone doing the Thriller dance moves. She couldn’t deny that it sounded like much more fun. I lost her, however, when I explained that for the first few years of my life I would dress up as a pumpkin – orange from head to toe – until the year I purchased a bright blue, furry Sully from Monsters Inc. outfit. Eventually I reached an age where it was no longer acceptable to go knocking on strangers’ doors and demanding sweets, and so Halloween became a non-event.
We eventually came to a compromise. We would bring back Halloween for me, and “scary” it up a little for her. We dressed up as dead baseball players in caps, oversized sports jerseys, knee high socks and fake blood everywhere. It ended up being a Halloween like neither of us had ever experienced before.
I love glitter and sparkles just as much as the next girl. I can’t get enough of my new highlighter. Anything rose gold and I’m obsessed. But I also love pumpkin spice anything, and scary movies in the dark. I say, save your inner fairy princess for Christmas. We get one night a year to let our inner faery loose. Bring back Halloween!