What is Halloween to you? Growing up in Australia, there was never much celebration of Halloween, it was widely thought of as an American holiday. As a kid I really didn’t care, I just loved the idea of dressing up and getting free candy and was not impressed that I couldn’t do so. However as I grew up a bit and discovered my love of the Celtic culture I discovered that there was a different side to Halloween, it is believed that it is linked (or that it developed from) the festival of Samhain or summer’s end.
Whilst Halloween is celebrated on one night Samhain was actually a harvest festival and celebrations sometimes went for days. There are many similarities posed to a festival of the dead and in some Gaelic folklore it is referred to as such. Whilst it was a harvest festival and celebrated summer’s end, it is also believed that the celebration held spiritual undertones where the long days were now passed and the long nights would begin, it was believed that the veil between the living world and the afterlife was thin. Families come together, build bonfires, feast, sing, dance and tell stories of loved ones who have passed, some still hold the custom today of setting a place for the deceased.
There is a lot more to this story I know, I have basically provided a brief summary of hundreds of years of tradition, but if I went into much detail I may offend or start a massive debate 😀 Which is not my aim.
Having Gaelic ancestors that I know very little of I am very interested in this culture, apart from the fact it is a harvest festival and time to take stock of supplies for the winter (apparently a lot of what is consumed during the feasts is perishables). I find the custom of celebrating the lives of one’s ancestors a rather beautiful tradition, having a celebration during which you tell stories of their lives in a way I believe really does bring part of them back because you are renewing your love for them and their memory in your heart and those of your family. In this day and age sometimes we forget to really spend time remembering and telling stories to our children of those who have come before us and I find that a little sad. My nephew (the first in my family) is now almost 4 months old and my grandfather and grandmother passed away almost 10 years ago now – way before everyone had webcams, YouTube and Smartphones etc. they were from the days where the phones were so big it took a whole day to dial a number. My family have started writing or typing up little titbits and stories about my grandparents before we forget them, in the effort to create a kind of ancestor folk lore pool of knowledge (ooh just made that up, but doesn’t it sound schnazzy!), we realised that we had forgotten so much about two people who were such a major part of our lives and that my nephew (Hendrix) would never know them if we didn’t tell him about them. So we hope to tell him stories about them so that he learns about where and who he came from. I might share some soon…
Meanwhile just as a side note… I still love dressing up in costume and partying on Halloween and am completely stoked that Australian’s are now very accepting about the holiday (20 years later). I am even having my hen’s party on Halloween weekend and we will be dressing as a bevy of Pirates! As a lover of Gilbert & Sullivan as a child and Johnny Depp as an adult there really was no better choice was there?! I finally get to be a Pirate Queen!!! What/who will you be on Halloween?