Halloween – Much Ado About Nothing

Well, here we are again celebrating Halloween, or, more correctly, Hallowe’en, an evening which marks the last day of the year on the ancient Celtic calendar, its night being the time when all witches and warlocks walked abroad and engaged in wicked revelry. With the coming of Christianity, the feast was transformed into the Eve of All Hallows, or All Saints Day being 1st November. A day when Christians might choose to celebrate the lives of all the Saints within Christendom: the hero’s and Martyrs from the Christian faith. With that in mind I find it most encouraging that so many youngsters choose to celebrate this Christian festival with such enthusiasm. Thousands of adults too will don costumes and spend a great deal of hard earned cash hosting a celebratory gathering in their own homes to welcome in the day of the Saints. Each of the chosen costumes being worn to represent the rising up of the dead Saints, that they might be recognised amongst the living. Children, many unaccompanied, will wander the dark streets dressed in disguise and knock on the doors of complete strangers to threaten them unless they are given some kind of a reward for doing absolutely nothing apart from dressing up. Of course, I am being slightly ironic but it nonetheless needs to be recognised that this hasn’t always been the case in Britain. The custom to trick or treat is yet another import from America and Canada and appears to have been copied and absorbed into our autumnal calendar. Perhaps it’s just a natural progression from the time in the sixties when we would build and dress a ‘Guy’ for bonfire night, stick it on a ‘bogie’ (a set of pram wheels joined together with two planks of wood) and proceed to trawl it around the Lloyds estate in Corby. We too would knock on doors to ask for a penny for the ‘Guy’. Hopefully our generous neighbours would give us enough money to buy some fireworks that we could set off whilst watching our Guy burn on a home bonfire. A door would open and we would chant ‘The sky is blue, the grass is green, may we have our Halloween?’ However, we never threatened anyone, we never disguised ourselves, we were always polite – even to those who slammed the door in our faces, and we would never choose to distress the elderly or vulnerable. All we were doing at Halloween was to plan for an excellent bonfire night. It wasn’t Pagan, it wasn’t Christian, there were no ghosts or goblins involved and we didn’t have any knowledge of pumpkins. Oh, while I think of it, where’s that knife of mine? I’ve got some carving to do!

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