I find myself increasingly impatient with Hallowe’en these days, and it can’t just be my innate grumpiness – I find the commercialization and nihilism disheartening.
The celebrations of Mexico’s Day of the Dead seem a positive and invigorating way of remembering those no longer with us, but with less of a substantive tradition – or only a half-remembered one, anyhow – Hallowe’en in North America and Britain is fast becoming just another excuse to shift badly made crap.
Personally I can’t stand trick-or-treating, feeling it to be an unwelcome import, though I have to (grudgingly) admit that it does have its origins in English traditions like Punkie Night and Mischief Night.
Punkie Night especially is a long-established tradition in parts of Somerset, where children and adults make “punkies” out of turnips, swedes or mangold wurzels, and place them somewhere prominent, or otherwise carry them around the village, to ward off evil spirits.
In the Brendon Hills, it is said that the shades of everyone who will die in the coming year pass through the local churchyard – and if anyone disturbs them, they too will be dead within twelve months…
Many Hallowe’en traditions, including the lighting of ritual fires (now more commonly associated in Britain with Guy Fawkes Night, on November 5th), come from Scotland, though their origins are often unclear. Nowadays many pagans celebrate October 31st as the eve of Samhain, the pre-Christian Celtic festival that marks the beginning of winter.
Whatever your preference, I hope you have a blessed and enjoyable Hallowe’en (or Samhain, or Nut-Crack Night), relatively free of commercial clutter. Me, I’m off to do a spot of apple-bobbing, and to light my punkie…