[ Sharon Knight is a musician and artist exploring the fantastical, mythic, epic, and archetypal. She is passionate about the arts as a vehicle to bring us into ever deepening awareness of the mystery and magick all around us. She is fond of preserving folk traditions and bringing new life to them with modern interpretations. She performs as a solo artist/duet with partner Winter, and as a front person for gothic-tribal-folk-metal band Pandemonaeon. She can be found at http://www.sharonknight.net and http://www.pandemonaeon.net.]
The other day I was part of a discussion online regarding the further marginalization of Halloween. The tone of the discussion was one of sadness that we are losing ground on preserving the one mainstream holiday that seems most in keeping with Pagan traditions. We have fought so hard to shed light on the true origins of Halloween and still we are faced with those who would whitewash it even further, stripping it of any meaning and making it no more that another excuse for mindless recreation.
It was this article that initiated the discussion, in the Rockford Spirituality section of the Examiner. (East Coast based).
The article cites examples such as Life Church in Roscoe, IL, which holds an annual Harvest Festival on Halloween Night, complete with Christian music, carnival rides, games, free candy, and guest lecturers inviting you to begin your spiritual journey with the church.
Other examples are date changes for Halloween, both proposed and already in effect, and trick or treating during daylight hours. The writer of the article fears this “blatantly demeans the already unstable recognition that the growing neopagan population struggles for.”
Do I share in the sadness expressed by my Pagan kin over this?
The short answer is no. While I can understand the sentiment that changing the dates of Halloween is demeaning to the recognition of Halloween as a sacred tradition, Halloween and Samhain have never really felt like the same thing to me. Admittedly, I have found it heartening that any remnants at all of a pagan custom have survived in the mainstream culture, but ultimately candy and costumes without any of the accompanying lore misses the mark.
For those seeking mindless entertainment, Halloween as celebrated by the masses will always be there for them, and it doesn’t really matter what day it’s on or what groups are trying to diminish its meaning further. Let them have the candy, crass commercialism, and general spectacle. These were never the folks that Samhain was meant for anyway.
I am not worried about losing our customs because there are still many people in this world seeking more meaning in their lives, not less. There comes a time when we realize the preciousness of life and no longer want to be distracted, but engaged. This is the sort of mindset that raised our Pagan traditions from the rubble of forgotten history and into a living tradition, and from what I see everywhere, this yearning for meaning is growing, not diminishing.
So take heart friends. This is nothing more than business as usual. Christians have been whitewashing our holidays for 2,000 years and still our traditions survive.
Lest I seem to be taking a situation lightly that is dear to some, let me say this – it is nice to feel that mainstream society is contributing to the overall flavor of a holiday that is sacred to us, if only in small things such as décor. It is fun to see our communities decked out with ghosts and goblins and various things that remind us that the veils are thinning. If we are saddened by these things diminishing, perhaps it is time to get involved. Host an “All Hallows Eve Festival” in your community. Why let the Christians have all the redefining fun? Have the proceeds benefit the community at large to gain visibility among non-Pagans. If Halloween is to be scheduled for the first Saturday of the month, celebrate all month, starting with Halloween and commencing with Samhain. If others are taking actions that diminish something dear to us, we must then take actions that emphasizes what is dear to us. We can’t change others’ behavior but we can put our own views out in to the world as well. As Scoop Nitzger used to say, “If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own”.