What is this thing called Halloween that we have celebrated for hundreds, probably for thousands, of years? “Hallow,” means holy, and “E’en,” which is short for “efne” or even, means evening. Holy Evening. Hallowe’en.
Really, it was just a harvest festival, the origins of which are lost in time. There are those who will say it is attributed to this idea or that, to this religion or that, but in actuality, who can really say for sure? Over hundreds and hundreds of years, many cultures have contributed to what we now know as Hallowe’en. We do know that it is definitely related to the harvest and to the end of the growing season. And the end of the growing season also means death, so it is related to death.
|The end is near. Time to celebrate!|
I don’t think death meant the same thing to ancient people as it does to us today, and frankly, I think I like their definition better. Death always comes at the end of life, of any kind of life (there’s no escaping it), and it is not something to be afraid of but something to celebrate. It is the fulfillment of the obligations of life. It is the doorway into the next world, and that’s something to celebrate!
I think for ancient civilizations, death was only a dream. It’s still only a dream if you pay attention. The dead cross from one realm into another. The harvest crosses from one state of being into another--quite literally into us. It’s only natural to think of those who have died and associate them with the death of vegetation at this time of year. So a great harvest festival was had, and it was a holy day because the harvest ensured the continuity of life and because loved ones who had passed on were remembered.
The costumes--the ghosts and witches and monsters--and masks are not meant to frighten people but to frighten away any negative thoughts or ideas. They’re meant to scare away the fear of death, not death itself. They’re meant to scare away those who would use the fear of death, and as long as you know this, you needn’t be afraid but instead can join in.
They say the veil between the worlds is very thin now, and our dead loved ones can come and visit us on this night. So light a candle in remembrance of them and to guide them. Set a place at the table with a glass of wine or their favorite drink. Perhaps they will impart some wisdom to you from the otherworld. It’s a nice custom, setting a place for someone who has passed on. It’s a way to let them know they’re still remembered and to let the living know that someday a place will be set for them as well.
And while you’re setting a place at the table and pouring some wine, bob for apples, go trick-or-treating, carve a Jack-o’-lantern, tell ghost stories, eat candy apples, and gaze into a mirror in a dark room to see the face of your future husband. Write your name backwards and read it that way three times at the stroke of midnight in order to turn invisible. Throw some salt over your left shoulder if you go out. Get into the spirit of things! It only comes once a year. Such a pity.