We’ve all listened to some Christians complain that Halloween is a celebration of the occult and therefore it is not Christian to celebrate it. “It’s a Pagan holiday, so it is bad.” Well, similarly, there are some Pagans who are pissed off that people associate Halloween with them when it is not our holiday. “It’s a Christianized holiday, so we don’t want it.” They do not want to celebrate it. We celebrate Samhain, but Halloween is a separate holiday that evolved from traditions associated with our sabbat. It also evolved from All Souls Day, a Christian holiday. To me, it seems to have come from many different lifestyles intermingling. Still, there seems to be an ongoing debate about who should celebrate the holiday.
Carrie, one of our readers, recently asked me if it would be disrespectful to her ancestors if she took her kids out trick-or-treating. Personally, my ancestors would be annoyed if my childhood lacked trick-or-treating. It’s a fun part of growing up, and Samhain traditionally lasted into November. There is time in this sabbat for treats and a ritual! I do not think it would be disrespectful, either, because they are two separate holidays. One is a spiritual observance, and one holiday is somewhat mundane. It is like Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July—the holidays have no spiritual weight, but they are excuses to bring family and friends together for festivities. I treat Halloween as the same type of thing, and this time of year is just plain fun. It’s a time of year that will allow you to spend an evening with your kids, and after that you can spend time with the ancestors!
As you all know, I work as a reporter. Last year, a local elementary school discovered that they were hosting a Pagan family. The school suddenly changed all of their Halloween celebrations to a harvest celebration out of respect for the children’s beliefs (apparently, the youngest daughter’s teacher thought Halloween was offensive to Wiccans and proposed that the school change their celebrations). Nobody seemed really offended, but personally, I have fun dressing up on Halloween. But this time of year is also very focused on the final harvest, which many of us tend to forget.
My mother recently found out that I like apple butter (thanks, Mom, for being observant throughout my childhood). She just bought me some as a present, and I realized that apples are a huge part of festivities in my area. I live within the proximity of two apple orchards (literally, one is down the street from my house), and both have harvest festivals throughout autumn. People from all over the state come for these festivities, and I grew up taking advantage of them. Around Samhain, I always end up offering my ancestors cider and other apple-based treats. That’s because this time of year makes me crave autumn foods, and I guess I assume that my ancestors are sharing my cravings. I go to harvest festivals and celebrate the time of year as the wheel turns (and indulge in some of my apple-based cravings), and something about corn mazes and hayrides still excites me. The harvest celebration associated with this holiday is just as fun as the Halloween stuff, so if you want to expose your children to a more Pagan environment, see what kind of harvests are occurring within your community.
The Halloween activities do bring me closer to friends that I never see. We host parties and take part in autumn festivities together. Of course, this is also the time of year for paranormal ghost hunts and spooky fun. To most people, this goes right along with the festivities. To witches, this makes sense due to the thinning of the veil between the worlds. In my eyes, this time of year is heavily influenced by a plethora of cultures, and I’m willing to go along with that. I’m not offended by people running around pretending to be witches, because hey, those cone hats are pretty stylish. So, Carrie, consider all of this. The holiday can be whatever you choose to make it, and this time of year offers a lot of opportunities for the kids to have a blast. I live in a colder climate, so I come home at six o’clock and it is already forty eight degrees outside. Days can be seventy, or they can be fifty. On the chilly days (that I’m not stuck in college or working), I like to light a fire and drink warm cider. That could also be fun to do—if the kids are young and you want to tell stories, maybe outline the story of Persephone and Hades over a cup of cider. The opportunities are endless! Just have fun with it.