In South Africa, we didn’t grow up celebrating Halloween the way you see them do it in the movies. In fact as South African kids in the 90’s we envied our “overseas” peers for their ritualistic dressing up and candy claiming.
The holiday has started to gain a bit more momentum here, although I think it’s funny to note that the few places that do celebrate Halloween in SA have no qualms about changing the date to suit the community. Last year Knysna’s Leisure Isle community (the one place that peeps can trick or treat, locally), behaved like true South Africans and moved Halloween because of the Rugby. ( I don’t think you can get more South African than that). We rocked up on actual Halloween night only to be told that we had missed the festivities by 24 hours.
This year I was clever enough to make sure I had my trick or treating dates right. We will be celebrating the holiday tonight (Saturday) instead of Monday (actual Halloween) because it just makes more sense to have it on a Saturday, apparently.
One of the main reasons many South African’s don’t “do” Halloween is because it’s considered to be too secular (okay evil) in what is for the most part still a strongly religious community. Which is why I was very fascinated to discover that it was orginally a Christian Holiday.
According to my (admittedly not that extensive) research, The Holiday was originally marked by Christians who would light candles on the graves of the faithfully departed in order to remember and honor them. Thus the name “the day of the dead” was born. It was also known as “All Saints eve” because the first people to be honored were saints and martyrs. Later all the dearly beloved were remembered.
What’s really interesting, though, is that like many Christian holidays, this one was built on an older festival. The Celtic Harvest Festival was a several day long celebration that pre-dates Christianity. The Gaelic people called it Samhain, The celebration that marked the end of the harvest and the start of Winter, the darker half of the year. Its new mascots are Halloween and Guy Fawkes Day (and you thought that was purely political, didn’t you?!).
It’s a time when nature itself “dies” for a while. This death is essential, though, and part of the great cycle of life. It’s a time to rejuvenate, regroup and grow. Although down here in the Southern Hemisphere, it is, of course, the start of Summer. Maybe that’s why we never really got into the full-blown spirit of Halloween like our Northen counterparts do.
Where ever you are, and whatever your thoughts are on the whole festival, I hope you have a great changing of the seasons. May this next stage of the great cycle bring you good things. I, myself, will be out there snacking on sweet things and celebrating the life and fun that once belonged to my own faithfully departed.