Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Misgivings

Since I want to talk about more than names here, I feel like I can discus a topic that I have very complicated feelings about. As a Wiccan, how much should I really care about Halloween?

Obviously, I care about Samhain. It's arguably the most important Sabbat on the Wheel of the Year. But contrary to popular believe, they're not the same holiday. They're not even on the same day period. Samhain is on November 1.

Don't believe me? Think about it. All of the Wiccan holidays are evenly spaced in reliable month-and-a-half long increments. They're never at the end of a month, they're always in the middle or the beginning. Halloween is Samhain Eve. So technically a Pagan could celebrate both Halloween and Samhain as completely separate holidays. But most don't. They lump them together.

There really isn't much that's Pagan about the modern American Halloween. It's true that the Celts celebrated a harvest festival at around the same time, and that it was associated with the dead. But there's no clear evidence that they dressed in costumes. They did not go from door to door begging for treats. Being "scared" or "scary" had no part in it. The only detail that ties the two holidays together are the harvest foods.

I've been thinking a lot about this recently. As I've mentioned before, I'm planning on moving abroad. Apparently, Halloween is not as universal as I had assumed it was. I expected Asia and Africa to not have a Halloween, but it's not celebrated in most parts of Europe and South America either. Aside from the United States and Canada, it seems like it only has deep roots in England and Ireland (and, of course, Mexico has Dia de la Muerte). Almost everyone else sees it as an annoying, commercialist American thing. I am older than Halloween celebrations in Germany. Should I start a family in a foreign country, my children could possibly never celebrate Halloween.

I didn't used to be this cynical about this holiday. I used to love it when I was a kid. But Halloween has lost it's childlike wonder since then, and I don't think it's my imagination. Despite the fact that we are spending more money on this holiday than ever before, the number of trick-or-treaters is lower and lower with every passing year. It's evolving into more of an adult holiday. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Halloween is considered by many to be a Pagan holiday, and there is a grain of truth in that. It's also a Catholic holiday. But mostly it's...nothing. So I don't feel like I would be a bad Wiccan by not paying attention to it.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a Samhain name round-up.

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