Halloween has become a holiday that is known across the globe, though not every country celebrates it in any form. When people think of Halloween, they think of scary movies, dressing up in costumes and children trick-or-treating. There is a general frivolity that is associated with this holiday, more so than probably any other holiday. It is very much about having a good time.
And yet, as Pagans and Witches, we celebrate Samhain at this time of year. An observation of the thinning of the veil, a time to honor our ancestors. We not only recognize those who are long gone, but also those who have crossed over in the past year. It can be a very solemn time, and for many can be a time to mourn those we have lost.
At this time of year, I always see discussion about whether or not partaking in Halloween traditions makes our observance of Samhain somehow less. And I get that we are still fighting to be taken seriously, and that, for many people, they look at Halloween and wonder how anyone could have serious religious associations with such a light hearted holiday.
But what I think a lot of people forget is that there are LOTS of other, mainstream religious holidays, that have quite frivolous secular holidays at the same time...and no one worries about observing both of those. Sure, around Christmas, if you live in a very Christian area, you will see some amount of "put Christ back in Christmas", but I very rarely see people saying that if you put up stockings for Santa than you obviously aren't 'really Christian'. And the same goes for Easter, I've never seen an attack on Easter baskets and egg hunts because it might mean that you aren't serious about the religious holiday.
So why do we feel that celebrating Halloween might somehow diminish our Samhain observation? I think that sometimes we get so caught up in how other people might perceive or judge us, that we forget that often the best way to show people that we are serious and legitimate in what we do is to practice in the way that is meaningful to us and let that sincerity show through!
And I also think that it is an unfortunate assumption that 'serious' religious practice has to be somber and lacking any type of levity or fun. Especially in a faith like Paganism, where we have gods of all sorts, and deities who embody fun, partying or laughter are common. Looking at Samhain as an ancestor or passing over holiday, we also should consider that many cultures don't mourn their dead in the traditional way, but do celebrate and send them off with great parties!
Our ancestors were people, and some of them probably would get a great kick out of a rowdy party in their honor. How we honor our dead is a very personal thing, and how I honor each of my ancestors might vary depending on who they were and my relationship with them. I don't feel that death needs to always be treated like a horrible and sad thing. I have watched people I care very deeply for waste away, and in the end, death was a kindness. No matter how much I will miss them, or how much I wish they could have stayed in this world, I would not wish the life they had at the end to linger. And I hope that they find joy and laughter and happiness in whatever comes after for them.
Our practice is what works for us. And there is no reason to limit yourself and your practice based on what other people might think. In fact, I feel that just gives what you do a feeling of falseness that many people can pick up on. Do what is true for you!
I also think it really crazy that just because the two holidays land on the same day and share some similar iconology, that we feel we have to pick one or the other. I see no reason why, as a Witch and Pagan, I can't attend a Samhain ritual and go to a Halloween dress up party! And, if the group I am hosting ritual with is willing, why those two can't even be combined.
I love Halloween. I love all the silly witch things, even the very stereotypical 'green skin hag with warts and a big crooked nose' ones. I love skull everything (even the neon pink ones that really aren't my style). I always get excited about the possibility of new clothes, and probably do the bulk of my clothes shopping around Halloween (and that's not just the old goth inside me...). I scour stores for their post-Halloween sales, looking for interesting decorations that might be used throughout the year or on altars.
One of the things I love most about Halloween is that I think it helps break some of the barriers and fears about Witches and the Occult. Sure, some people still take it as an 'evil' holiday, and warn innocent children about the dangers that might lurk about (when really, kids just want to dress up and get candy). But so many more are open to things around this time, in the spirit of fun, that they might not ordinarily be.
Halloween was always the time to break out the Ouija boards, to talk about seances and ghost stories, and to play games like light as a feather. It was a time when all things spooky and supernatural were accepted. And sometimes those experiences translated into a better understanding of what we do and believe throughout the rest of the year.
Dressing up has always been something I loved (and I still think it would be a wonderful world if we could all wear whatever we wanted every day...costume or not). And for Halloween, I can embrace my inner child, dress however I want...and not feel judged. I trick-or-treated until high school...not for the candy, just to dress up. I loved taking my son out trick-or-treating, because I could dress up! The other thing I love about dressing for Halloween is that it's not about the accuracy of your costume, it's about the spirit of it. I can use plastic props or draw things on old clothes with markers and still have a fun costume...and it's all good!
And on a final note, I think that sometimes we need to have a good laugh at ourselves and at how people view us. It helps take the sting out, helps to let us let go of resentment at being judged or not being taken seriously. Life is too short to be serious all the time. If you enjoy something, embrace it! If you love Halloween....celebrate it! And invite me!!!!