Friday, 5 November 2010

We love Halloween Tat! -why we can enjoy witches, bats and pumpkins

All Hallows Eve, Halloween, Festival of the Dead, Samhain and All Saints Day what ever you call it the 31st October is an excellent excuse for celebration. Generally, Halloween is considered to be one of the oldest holidays that is celebrated by majority of the countries around the world. In times such as they are, with the economic downturn and newspapers full of gloom, the thought of months of cold and dark ahead we really need something to cheer us up. Halloween is the perfect excuse.

Widely thought of as a festival with its roots in pagan beliefs that was then adopted by the christian faith. Actually Halloween originated from different cultural influences over thousands of years. No matter how each culture celebrates Halloween, it is still apparent that this holiday is being commemorated every year by people all over the world. I have had a little delve into the Internet to uncover the different rituals and ways that have developed over the years.

In the western countries such as the United States, Canada and the UK, they are celebrating Halloween by displaying carved pumpkins and corn stalks. Children go trick or treating and even wear scary costumes which depict scary creatures as they roam door to door for treats. These are the common practices in the western countries.

In Ireland, where the trick or treating originated, they celebrate their Halloween by anxiously pursuing sweet treats. Children wearing ghoulish costumes knock on the doors of every house asking for sweets. This has been a long time tradition that is still practiced every year. Aside from that, the houses are also decorated with numerous Halloween decorations and lights.

As for the Spanish people, they are known to enjoy numerous kinds of feasts and other celebrations and they celebrate their Halloween similarly to the western countries wherein children receive sweets from their neighbors while adults enjoy Halloween parties at clubs. They also tend to hold numerous Halloween parades as part of the celebration.

In the Pagan and Wiccan traditions the festival of Samhain represents the time when the veil between this world and the afterlife is at its thinnest allowing ancestral visitors to return and visit the earth plane. It is also the "witches" New Year and represents the moons triumph over the sun as winter progresses before being defeated again when the sun regains power at Yule - the Winter Solstice. Modern day practicing Pagans will celebrate by holding a dummy supper, were an extra place is laid at the dinner table for ancestral visitors. Being the new year they also use the occasion to make their New Year's resolutions just as is done at the beginning of the calendar year.

On the other hand, Asian cultures have a slightly different manner of celebrating Halloween. In China, people offer food and water while they light their lanterns so that the spirits of their deceased loved ones will be guided in travel during the night of Halloween. Aside from that, pilgrims are also visiting Buddhist temples and they create paper boats which they regard as the symbols of the spirits of the dead. It is also not uncommon for whole families to hold picnics in cemeteries, their way of remembering their loved ones.  These are regarded as a places to celebrate and remember not just to mourn.

In Japan, Halloween is celebrated as the Obon Festival wherein special dishes are made and bright red lanterns are hung in each house. These lanterns are lit with light to serve as a guide to show the spirits where their loved ones are. The Japanese families also clean the memorial stones of their deceased loved ones because they believe that their spirits come and visit during the festival.In Japan however,  the Obon festival is celebrated at some time in July or August.

So fill your house with Halloween Tat, carve your pumpkins, hang bats from your lampshades, play silly games and dress up in ever more outrageous costumes, celebrate and let your hair down . Then when all the trick or treators have gone and you collapse at the end of the night, still bathed in candlelight, catch your breath and take a moment to reflect on memories of your loved ones.