It seems to me that Halloween, more so than any other holiday, means something completely different to each age group: children are hell-bent on scouring the neighborhood for candy; the young adult generation that, since having abandoned the trick-or-treat quest, will use the day as an excuse for another themed party; and the older folks, who either love interacting with the kids or watch TV, ignoring their doorbell. It’s interesting to see how the meaning of the holiday has changed for me personally as well—to be honest, I don’t see much point in it, except for maybe wearing a costume that may or may not involve tights. Hypothetically.
Also, when taking historical context into account, the fact that we’ve turned Halloween into what we know it as today is a tad peculiar. After snooping around on the History Channel’s website, it seems that the holiday is attributed to the Celts, in the form of Samhain, celebrated in modern day Ireland, Great Britain and France. Back in the day, the New Year was celebrated on Nov. 1, “marking the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the cold, dark winter… associated with human death.” Prior to this New Year’s Day, Samhain occurred; the spirits of the dead would return to the Earth, damaging crops and causing mischief. So, there’s definitely a common ground between the dark undertones of the historical holiday, and that is manifested with our modern day ghouls, goblins and witches.
That still leaves me wondering about the candy. Is it that societies in general never like to really let go of the past? With 20/20 hindsight, we can acknowledge that, yeah, something important did happen back then, but since we don’t really like the way they did it, let’s do it this way. Our version is better. Substitute out druids and ghosts for the spirits of saints and martyrs and you have the Church’s All Saints’ Day, but being unable to give up that Samhain celebration, All Hallows’ Eve, our Halloween, stuck around as well. So, finally, morphing from a festival with bonfires and spiritual observance, we have a day that’s generated unbelievably large amounts of money through the sales of candy, movies, toys, costumes, crappy spin-off remake movies and decorations.
Should it be that way? Because I’ll admit, that’s really the only Halloween I know, and it seems to carry way more weight than the other autumn holiday, Thanksgiving. We place candy over gratitude. Wanting to gain a different perspective on the holiday situation, I asked sophomore Austin Good, who is both a resident of Lancaster County and a practicing Mennonite, whether or not mainstream Halloween is the headliner of October in the areas surrounding the College. It’s not. “For us, personally, Mennonites are very conservative dress-wise … no witches or demons. It’d be more of a football player, farm animal [type of costume].” Along with that, Good notes that, contrary to the way mass media depicts spirits and ghosts, his community views otherworldly things as just that, otherworldly: “It’s kind of like the good and bad, not individual ghosts.”
Good further explains that the emphasis is more on the season than the actual day of Halloween. “I wouldn’t be carrying a trash bag full of candy back to my house…a lot of things go around schedules. If trick-or-treating was missed it wasn’t the end of the world.” That is something I can get behind. Of course, when I was younger if I thought there was a threat of not receiving boatloads of candy, there’d have been a serious problem, but in retrospect, was it worth it?
It’d be nice to celebrate fall for being fall, for a change, the winding down of another year, the beginning of school. Parties will always be there, and will always be fun, but half the time I can’t tell whether I should be dressed up, dressed down, bring candy or fake blood or whether I’ll be running in to Hannah Montana or Satan. The good news is, if you’re as stressed or confused as me, you can go take advantage of the Christmas sales at your local everything— they’ve been going on since September.