You looked all over town and found the perfect costume for your five year old son. He has been telling you for six months that he wants to be “Optimus Prime” from the TV show, “Transformers”. He has his candy bag ready and can’t wait to go to his neighbors’ houses to fill up his bag with all his favorite candies. You are as excited as him and got a stash of candies for the children who will be ringing the doorbell of your house dressed in all sorts of interesting costumes.
But before you step out with your son it might not be a bad idea to get a little information on the history of Halloween and its origination.
Halloween dates back to the ancient Celtic celebration, some two-thousand years ago, called Samhain. The Celts, who lived in the area which is now Ireland, United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. The new year ushered the end of summer and harvest and the start of the long, bleak, and cold winter. It was also the time when much human death would be observed as a result of the harsh winter months. The Celts believed that the new year’s eve was a time when the boundary between the living and the dead became overlapped. It was believed that on Samhain the ghosts of the dead came back to earth to destroy the crops. But the return of the dead was also considered to be useful to the Druid or Celtic priests for making predictions about the future. For such people who were dependent on the unstable nature of the world, the prophecies and predictions made were extremely useful for surviving the severe winter. The Celtics celebrated the day by making huge bonfires which they used to burn animals and crops in reverence of the Druid gods and goddesses. They also wore costumes made of heads and skins of animals.
Over time the celebration of Halloween took on a more secular and commercial approach. The tradition of giving candies to children dressed in costumes (scary or innocent) assures that by this act of gift giving the evil spirits will not come to attack such homes. It is the central message of Halloween which revolves around the return of the dead to earth, evil spirits, and witchcraft that create contradictions to the concept of God’s unity as believed by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. All of the three Abrahamic faiths believe that associating partners with God is a grave and unforgivable sin.
Most of the people who participate in Halloween say that it is just a time to have some fun. But any activity which allows children to dress up in scary costumes and beg for candies from absolute strangers cannot be considered to be a healthy celebration. In 2012 Americans spent more than $8 billion on costumes, decorations, and candies. Such spending may seem to have a positive effect on the economy but this money could be better spent in taking care of the needy. In 2012, 1.5 million children in America lived in food insecure households. Just imagine the difference it would make if every family who spends even as little as $25 on costumes, decorations, and candies, donated this amount to feed the hungry.
So before you set out with your little one to go ‘trick or treating’, ponder over the real meaning of this holiday and make the right decision.