A Little Halloween Reflection

As a child, growing up in the United States, OF COURSE I dressed up and trick-or-treated for halloween. What I didn’t exactly see or realize then was just how vital this holiday is in building community. Think about it, you went around to all the homes in the neighborhood, knocked on doors, chatted with neighbors, and sometimes were invited in to hangout or to go through a ‘Haunted House’ (this sounds majorly creepy and unsafe, but I was always accompanied by a parent). There is no other time where neighbors were FORCED to interact with each other on this fun and playful level. Once I moved out of that suburban neighborhood to a rural area, we started trick-or-treating at my grandparents’ houses. Walking through the streets my grandfather pointed out every house and had a story about the people who live there. Most neighbors know each other by name and the warmth of the community illuminates the night.

When I am in the US for this holiday, we still continue this tradition of visiting grandparents on Halloween night. I know many countries around the world do not celebrate quite in the way Americans do, but (and here comes one of my Irish culture posts) Ireland certainly does! Irish kids dress up and go trick-or-treating. Irish adults have fancy dress parties (same as American costume parties) or dress up and head out to the pubs. Perhaps the Irish have a fond affection towards halloween because of its pagan roots in the country. Samhain is a celebration to celebrate the end of the harvest season and mark the beginning of winter. There is so much Irish folklore that accompanies this day, complete with certain bonfires for fairies and spirits, and even food (typically colcannon- a creamy mash of spuds, cabbage, and chives) left out for visiting souls. Some people dressed in disguise and went door-to-door and performed song or verse in exchange for food!

I love thinking about the pagan celebrations. The way traditions evolve is fascinating; and being able to spot the similarities that we continue today really connect us to the past in an almost eerie way! How do you celebrate Halloween in your part of the world?

Photo Credit: Per Palmkvist Knudsen
Photo Credit: Per Palmkvist Knudsen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Danish_Bonfire.jpg
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