It’s my most favourite time of year.
When folks gather together to walk through dark neighbourhood streets, dressed in costumes, to knock on doors and demand candy from strangers.
It’s also a time to carve up plump, round squash into terrifying faces, lit from within by candles. People add spiderwebs to their homes and plot graveyards on their front lawns.
They share ghost encounters and watch their favourite horror films while munching on all the candy supposedly left over from trick-or-treaters.
As far as rituals go, Halloween is one of our most interesting.
Until a few years ago, fireworks could be heard piercing the night sky from sunset to sunrise. A ban reduced that considerably, but it’s pretty common to hear the pop-pop of Roman candles in the days leading up to Halloween.
In my youth, we were less interested in fireworks and more interested in the bonfire. After trick-or-treating, families would head to a central square, where a giant fire would warm damp and cold kids, some of whom were still in costume. Hot chocolate and other goodies were passed around – as if the kids didn’t gather enough sweets that night – and the mood was celebratory, like a last-ditch outdoor event before winter set in.
According to the Library of Congress, Halloween was the end of the year for the Celtic people and corresponded to the harvest and preparations for winter. Kind of like New Year’s Eve with a supernatural aspect.
The rituals and beliefs of the pre-Christian Celts turned into some of the same rituals that we celebrate today. People built bonfires to speed the souls of those who died in the previous year on their way to other worlds. They gathered animals, fruits and vegetables for feasts.
Just a few days after Halloween is Guy Fawkes Day, when bonfires are lit to remember the man executed in the 1600s for trying to blow up the British parliament. I’ve often heard the proximity of Guy Fawkes Day, and the Island’s strong British origins, as the reason for the enthusiasm for fireworks on Halloween, but I can’t find much documented research to support that. Makes sense, though, as an explanation.
Halloween might be designed to appeal to children the most – the costumes, the candy – but it also offers one of those rare opportunities for adults to have some fun, too.
Like the kids, adults can choose to be anything they want on Halloween – doctor, Mad Hatter, vampire. When was the last time adults gave free rein to their dreams?
While Christmas traditions often carry the expectation of gifts and time, driving expenses beyond budgets, Halloween can be all about the individual, offering creativity and expression for all ages.
Although I’d continue to give out candy – it’s not worth the risk of cleaning up toilet paper, pumpkin guts or eggs the next day.
Often during the coming rainy months, we’ll hunker down in our homes, away from our neighbours and friends. These rituals offer an excuse to get together for some childish fun.