As I was trolling the Internet today, I started thinking about the origins of Hallowe’en, or All Hallows Eve as it used to be called by the Catholic Church. On my way to do some research, I stumbled upon a few helpful sites offering a brief history of the day we now associate with costumes, Jack-o-lanterns, gruesome movies, tacky lawn decor, excessive drinking, and, most importantly, free candy.
As a kid wandering the streets in Salvation Army bedsheets, taking candy from strangers seemed like something mama should have warned me about. Or maybe she did know best: I did lose a few “homemade” treats from the man down the street because mam was convinced he had injected drugs or poison into it. However, as an adult, Hallowe’en means little more to me than combing Value Village and the recycling bin in hopes of creating the most low-budget, ironically hilarious, and yet comfortable costume of the party that I don’t really want to attend.
Regardless of how you were brought up, or whether or not you were even allowed to participate in trick-or-treating (many of my religious friends were not), the end of Oct.signals Hallowe’en. Just as the first snow, coloured lights, and shorter days signal Christmas—or, more inclusively, the Holiday Season.
Businesses run on seasonality. Companies like Starbucks live and die with the seasons. When can you get a pumpkin spice latte? An eggnog latte? An eggnog anything, for that matter. Pumpkin spice in the fall, chai-nog or whatnot in the winter, during the “holidays.”
Businesses run on seasonality because humans run on seasonality. In most parts of Canada, we are fortunate to have four distinct seasons (usually!) and a bunch of distinct holidays to go with them. We owe most of this prolific holiday-ing to the Church. Yes, perhaps it was a lot of political airbrushing on the part of the Church to make Christmas Day land flat on the pagan celebration of Winter Solstice, and it’s probably true that the historical All Hallows Eve borrowed its harvest theme from the Celts or the Wiccans, but the point is: all humans, regardless of culture, race, religion, nationality, or geographic position, are affected by the rhythms of season. Certain times of the year we plant, harvest, fish for trout, and tie flies. And while most of us don’t have lives bounded by the Canadian growing season, we cannot help but notice the year and its seasons. The Pagans knew this, the Jewish people knew this, the historical Church knew this. If you delve into any religion, cult, or belief system, there are celebrations, special days, feasts, and fasts that all revolve around the changing seasons of the calendar year.
Maybe the Church stole Hallowe’en, maybe someone else stole it back, but the seasons still change. The years still come and go. How do you celebrate them?
So whether your Hallowe’en is a vigil to the Saints, a costume party with friends downtown, dinner with the folks, or just another day studying for midterms: notice the year.