In the first part, Why we love Halloween Part I I talked a little about the physiological side.
Now the psychological side.
Growing up in the 70’s, I remember kids still flooding the streets, going from house to house trick-or-treating, and coming home just in time for the Charlie Brown special. Like everything else, today we try to organize it all. Churches and organizations host small haunted houses and trunk-or-treats in the parking lot. Every year, we can count on one batch of kids to stop by the house.
But what does it all mean?
Historically, many cultures celebrate this time of year, though not necessarily on the same day, and call it Samhain, Salween, Halloween, All Hallows Eve, Hop Tu Naa, shuma sashti and the list goes on. They all circle around the same idea. The Day of the Dead. The night the veils between the land of the living and those who have crossed over become the thinnest. In some of these cultures, it also represented the new year.
In history, the practice of dressing up the kids, and sometimes the adults as evil spirits was done in this tradition, so that if you were to cross paths with something wicked that night, they would mistake you as a fellow demon or spirit, and let you pass on your way. The days have become shorter, and we creep towards the longest night of the year. The weather tends to have that balance of warm and cool. The harvest has ended, and at the back of our minds, we all know that Winter is Coming, with or without John Snow.
We take this time to face that which we fear most, and remember those who are no longer with us, knowing some of us will be crossing over and joining with our ancestors sooner than later in the harshness of the winter. We also mock death in a way, knowing sooner or later, it does come for all of us. So we take this time to commune with those no longer with us, and pray they are in a better place.
By dressing the kids up today, it’s now a way of celebrating life. Sure, there’s plenty of vampires and ghouls roaming the streets, but there’s also princesses and super heroes too. Here to protect the rest of us from those things that go bump in the night. We get to live through watching the kids have fun, eat too much sugar, and express who they want to be for the moment.
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