For three Halloweens since I was four years old, I dressed up as a cat. I went to school with my costume on, and at night, my parents would take me out for candy. I thought Halloween was a day of fun (…sometimes spooky, because I’m scared of the dark), filled with mountains of candy. However, Halloween actually has a meaning besides costume and candy.
The True Meaning of Halloween
Every October 31st starting about 2000 years ago, Celts celebrate a festival of Samhain (sow-in). This day marks the end of summer and harvest and the beginning of the dark and cold winter. On this day, it is believed that the otherworldly spirits (Aos Sí) could more easily cross over into our world. Celts believed that they must appease the spirits’ needs and make sure that they do not cause trouble to humans, or harm crops and livestock. People would leave food and drinks outside of their homes for the spirits. The act of “mumming” and “guising” involves disguising oneself from Aos Sí and going door-to-door, asking for food. This day is also termed the “Celtic New Year”.
There is a fire festival celebrating this 2000-year-old tradition. Included in this parade is a theatrical performance of a stand off between the Summer and Winter Kings. The Winter king overthrows the Summer King and is awarded the crown by the Cailleach, a Celtic representation of the Goddess. There were performances by people painted in red and others in white to represent the energies and interactions between Summer and Winter. The performance was very comical. I actually did not fully understand what was going on, because there was a sea of people blocking my view. I ended up standing on my tippy toes trying to film it.
Here’s a tiny bit of the performance: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxCncrftgnnXX3N6ZDJfYWhlMmc/view?usp=sharing
Experiencing Halloween in Scotland makes me think about how diluted the meaning of Halloween is in America and other places around the world. All we are concerned about nowadays is, “what are you going to be for Halloween?”
The traditions of holidays are normally passed through family members; however, because America is a melting pot of many cultures, it becomes a trend to celebrate everything. Even many holidays originally associated with religions or particular ethnic groups are celebrated widely. Therefore, the original value is gone, mainly due to the commercialization of holidays, in order to meet the needs of our consumer-centric world. Companies are often preying on parents by making products for kids; costumes, easter eggs, and all sorts of toys.
No wonder Halloween and many holidays have lost their true meaning; I am glad that Halloween did not begin as a superficial holiday of dressing up and going trick-or-treating.