Friday, October 31, 2014

Mama.. Why do we Trick & Treat?

Photo: Carroll College Student Life

The air is crisp and damp, the sun is low and bright. Emmy Bo and I are riding the bike to school, she sitting in front of me on the bicycle rim in a side saddle pose. We are not allowed but we do it anyway. Feeling a bit naughty we swisch down the street.

“Mama… You know that Eléonore doesn’t do Halloween like we do.”
“ No? Why is that?”
“ She says she loves God and not the scary bad ghosts.”


We have reached school and Emmy Bo is jumping down from the bike and I give her the backpack to put on. I look at her and see question marks in her face as she is trying to make sense out of a conversation with her classmate Eléonore, the oldest daughter of three in the pastor’s family. I ask Emmy Bo:

“Why do we celebrate Halloween?”
“TO GET SWEETS!”
she says with a big toothless grin on her face.

I quickly realize that this is something I have failed to educate my children about. That this is a perception taught by the commercial Halloween in stores and that in our house Halloween has always just been about Trick & Treat, dressing up and decorating with scary stuff… This is totally wrong.

“Naaaahhh. That is not what Halloween is about really.” I tell her with a playful grin on my face. Emmy Bo looks at me and laughs in understanding. She knows that there is something more than Trick & Treat to Halloween. She just doesn’t know what. I start to explain:

“ You see, Halloween is actually about remembering the holy spirits of the dead. So if you have a family member that is dead, like a grandma, a father a brother a cousin or maybe a cat, you can go to their grave and celebrate the memory of the dead person by lighting candles in the dark and giving flowers. It is a beautiful way of remembering this person and showing that this person is not forgotten. That they remain in our hearts and memory." (Note: In Sweden we call it Alla Helgons Dag - All Saints Day, an this is a tradition that I was growing up with in Sweden. No Trick & Treating when I was a child…)
“Yes! That is what Eléonore does. She goes to the graves. Because she doesn’t like the dress up and scary faces. But why do we do Trick & Treat then?”


For a moment I am caught off guard because to be really honest, I have no idea. Shame on me. Why do we do Trick & Treat when we are supposed to remember the dead? I tell Emmy Bo I will Google it and let her know after school. And she is pleased with this answer. For now. And I go home to enlighten myself on the subject and I get stuck on the computer quite sometime in my own education.

I find it very interesting. And upsetting at the same time. That commercialism is holding us so tight in its grip that many of us don’t really know what certain festivals and holidays (religious or not) are all about. That we allow ourselves to get sucked into yet another money-spending event to be a part of the commercial joy ride, forgetting all about the historical backgrounds for the happening. (Read an interesting article I stumbled upon here: Religious significance of Halloween has been lost, replaced by commercialism by Charlie Honey at The Grand Rapids Press.)

I’m guilty of the lack of knowledge. I am guilty of getting seduced by commercialism. Thanks to my children I teach myself on the topic. I talk to the pastors wife about it (who is a darling friend of mine living next door) and today I learned something new. Which makes me feel great. And I am prepared to answer questions when Emmy Bo returns from school this afternoon, because now I know what it is all about. Do you know what Halloween is all about, really?

Kärlek
Annette




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25 comments :

  1. That's really interesting. Could you perhaps do another post to tell us what you found out? I would certainly like to read it.

    I have never done trick or treating and apart from bobbing for apples at brownies, it went un-noticed when I was a child. It was ignored by my daughter. I would be interested to know its full and proper meaning. I enjoyed reading this post. Thank you.

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    1. Hi
      I'll see if I get around to do a follow up on this post. The comments below are very informative and helpful though. Thanks for visiting!
      Xxx

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  2. I am a woman of a certain age, we he never heard of trick or treat in my childhood. My children are now 21 and 24 and they dislike it because they can also remember a time when we didn't have to decorate houses and have children come to the door asking for treats. But we are a global village now and other customs are being spread around. I have no dislike for fun and customs and celebrations but like you said we should not forget the real history and resist commercialism. I work in a Catholic Church and this day is a scared day for remembering.So many religious days are being swallowed by the need to sell more items, I can honestly say one day many will forget the real reason we celebrate Christmas, even now Santa is the hero of that day! Don't get me wrong I am not someone who wants no fun in the world but we forget our history at our peril. Have fun but do not forget history, is the motto I try to teach my children.i am heartened to know that across the world in a little village someone else wants to remember some history too.

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    1. Hi Susan
      Thank you for your input on this topic. It is sad in a way that commercialism is taking over, I agree. Saying that it is always fun to have a party. As long as we do remember the history I think we can celebrate however we want to celebrate. I am happy I have now educated my children about this.
      Xxx

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  3. I fully agree that we should remember our history, and for me Halloween is part of my history. I'm Irish and I've always known this festival. When I was young we collected nuts and apples along the houses although nowadays even irish kids get overloaded with sweets. Halloween is originally the end of the Celtic year - the festival of Samhain. It was a combination of a harvest festival and party. It was believed by the celts that at that time of year the spirit world was close by. They disguised themselves in order to scare away the spirits.
    Halloween for me growing up was a family party - we ate mashed potatoes and kale. Whoever found the coin hidden in the dinner would be rich that year. We ate barmbrack (a fruit bread) containing a ring and other things. If you got the ring in your slice, it meant you would get married that year. We played games including bobbing for apples.
    Due to the large number of Scottish and Irish emigrants to America over the years, the tradition moved over there, the turnip lanterns became pumpkins, and the family party became a commercial horror festival.
    All Saints Day is celebrated in Ireland on 1st November and most people observe each day differently.
    I no longer live in Ireland, but I do try to continue the Halloween traditions with my kids in the form of a family event which is part of their Celtic heritage.

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    1. I have Irish ancestry (as well as Scottish and English!) and was aware of everything you posted here! It always surprises me (and I guess it really shouldn't) that folks do not know the history behind Halloween.
      I can see how commercial it has become (just like Christmas really). But this does not take away from our celebration or enjoyment of the holidays!
      And... we never did the 'scary' stuff (I HATE horror movies!) We always had nice costumes and smiling pumpkins!

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    2. I love to hear about your history! See if we loose that story we loose all our stories! There are so many traditions that the organised church amalgamated into their traditions too. No I think it's the push to buy more things in order to celebrate that needs resistance, not the celebration itself.

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    3. Hi
      This is great information and a great story. Thank you so much for sharing and I might just use this information in a follow up blog post. Thanks for engaging in this topic.
      Xxx

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    4. I live in Northern Ireland and we have always celebrated Halloween. Like Dana it always surprised me that not everyone celebrated it, even as close as England, where in parts it is only being celebrated in recent years. They would have had a much bigger celebration on 5th November for Guy Fawkes Night, which we in Northern Ireland do not celebrate.

      As kids we went door to door "Halloween Singing" chanting the well known rhyme and were usually given apples, nuts and sometimes money. We dressed usually as witches or vampires in homemade costumes made out for bin liners and a false face. We always had a turnip lantern. And anonymous if right this is where the pumpkins originated.

      Just incase there is anyone wondering about the rhyme I'll post it for you:

      Halloween is coming, and the goose it getting fat
      Would you please put a penny in the old man's hat.
      If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny would do,
      If you haven't got a ha'penny, then God Bless You,
      And your old man too!

      :)

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  4. I have found from raising my children I too learned as much in the teaching of them. Halloween and it's history, well it all depends on what culture and time frame you look at it to it's meaning. I guess I'm guilty as charged with the commercial side of the celebration. It a fun night for make- believe and candy. As for celebrating lost loved ones, we try to do that more often with talking about the times with those loved ones, reminiscing. However you celebrate, have a happy Halloween!

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  5. Halloween in the US seems to be a conglomeration of the many age-old traditions from numerous countries and cultures throughout history. I have always taken part in Halloween and I don't think of it as a religious celebration at all. I am not catholic so I don't celebrate the saints day nor do I feel that most people in the US substitute the tradition of trick-or-treating with a disregard for a religious holy day. What has become US Halloween has many roots in seasonal change as it seems to have in religious association. It has become a very blended and varied day of fun here in the USA. I celebrated it as a kid (and I'm 50) as long as I can remember and I made costumes for my own kids to trick or treat in. Where I live it's just a time for fun, for recognition of the changing season from Fall to Winter - a time to take note that the days are shorter and the darkness comes earlier, a night to crunch through the leaves as one visits and socializes with their neighbors and they traipse through the streets all dressed up in costumes. Some years I have made big pots of harvest soup, chili, etc and had cider and beer on hand for the people who visited my house to trick or treat. I would bet I have as many funny or beautiful costumes come to my door as scary ones. I think Halloween is great fun and in the tradition of the original mummers and guisers (German?), in the seasonal traditions of Samhain (Celtic?) and in the blended new traditions of Trick Or Treat I find it all to be a time for happiness, friends and celebration and I participate without disrespect to anyone's religious beliefs and for me I also participate without guilt! BTW - I always dress up when I hand out treats at the door. I love to dress up - costumes are so much fun. All that said. Each person should celebrate all holidays in a way that fits best with their personal system of beliefs and morals. What is right for one person or family may not be right for another. Decide what is best for you and your family and teach your children that way. No one should be measured by another's ruler.

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    1. Hi Sher
      Thank you for your input. I agree no one should be measured by another's ruler. I just feel that it is some what important to remember the real history behind events like this and then if we celebrate it with candy and dress up, spend tons of money on decorations and this and that... Everyone make their own choice. Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts.
      Xxx

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  6. Even us are pushing commercial halloween. We have spomýname our ancestors, we go to their grave light a candle and put flowers on the grave. You can see my blog, something I wrote.

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  7. You added a link to an article from 'The Grand Rapids Press'!!! This is my hometown (the city I was born in and still live in!) :-D
    Whilst we were taught about remembering our loved ones who have crossed over, we still love trick-or-treating. When I was a wee lass...there were many celebrations around Halloween both at school and in our neighborhood (think 'block party') It was a lovely night to light up our houses and we would all stroll up and down our streets and visit with our neighbors. I used to think that it was too bad we didn't do that more often. So much fun!

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    1. Hi Dana
      What a coincident. That is so funny! It sounds like you have fond memories of Halloween celebrations. When it comes down to it I guess it is all about having a good time.
      Xxx

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    2. *nods* I have many fond memories of Halloween from my own childhood, and then of celebrating with my own children. At our house, the holidays are about spending time with family and making memories!

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  8. We never celebrated Halloween. It wasn't part of the Afrikaner Culture or or (Dutch) Reformed Church tradition - it was something you read about in other countries. It's only the last, what, 10, 15 years that it's become a commercialised event in RSA, with parties and tons of stuff in the shops. Lots of strong feelings from many different sides here.

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    1. Hi Stel
      Yep. Always interesting to stir up a discussion and learn form different point of views. Thank you for participating.
      Xxx

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  9. Great post. Luckily my children do not wish to trick or treat. We celebrate bonfire night more so in our family. It has a tangible historical meaning for us. I loved reading this... do tell us what you find out. Jo x

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    1. Hi Jo
      Follow up blog post will come. Hopefully today to be as accurate as possible. Thanks for popping in.
      Xxx

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  10. This was a helpful article to me:

    http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/the-light-shines-on-all-hallows-eve

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  11. Hi Annette,
    I was going to write more but it wouldn't let me after I posted the link in the box.
    Truly enjoy your blog. I love to crochet! My husbands family are Swedish and we celebrate many swedish traditions too!
    Jane

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  12. Beautiful thoughts...this is what it is to be a mother, to learn and share over and over and over...

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  13. Hallowe'en has been commercialised just like Christmas.

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Thank you so much for visiting my world. I love reading your comments and I do my utterly best to respond to questions and sweet messages. Thank you again for popping by.

Kärlek
Annette

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