Saturday, October 30, 2010
I like this holiday because of its roots in the Celtic holiday of Samhain (the Wikipedia article is well-researched). We've strayed from those origins, but there's still something pagan about dressing up as someone you're not and running around in the dark, begging for treats while threatening to play tricks if you don't get them.
Around my neighborhood, styrofoam grave stones fill the yards, ghosts dangle from trees and skeletons rise out of grassy front lawns. Horrid goblins hang from the neck above doorways, spiders crawl along rooftops and certain doors, when opened, emit screams.
I wonder how parents explain all this death to their children. My first thought is this is a good way to introduce them to it. Death is fun! It's only scary in a Boo! sort of way. Maybe the subject of death doesn't come up, at least not with the littlest ones. Maybe it's all just candy and costumes.
But of course Halloween is about death. That's what the Celts celebrated at Samhain--the end of autumn, the approaching winter, the symbolic death creeping over the land. It's a fine time, at season's change, to note that we walk in a world others once walked, and to acknowledge that in some ways they still do.
We live in the homes they built, we absorb the art they created, we learn, over and over again, how their actions shaped our lives. If we're lucky we get to see the ruins they left behind in Rome, in Paris, or in Altadena. We live among the dead and this is a good thing. This weekend we acknowledge and celebrate them.