Thanks for clicking through. This isn’t my normal ‘life is happy and wonderful’ style of post. I need to start by saying that our first US Halloween wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t what I was expecting.
I normally love Halloween. As someone who has loved dearly and watched that person die, Halloween represented for me an opportunity to reconnect with their spirit. Well at least that’s what the Celtic history tells me, but here in the USA the focus on death felt yukky. It was openly mocked and that didn’t sit well with me.
Did you know that the Jack of Lantern (ie. a carved pumpkin) actually belongs to super dark folklore about a guy named Jack who traps the devil up a tree by scratching a cross into it’s bark. He eventually sets the devil free after making him promise never to claim his soul. Jack - free from the fear of hell - lives his life without restraint. As a result, he is refused entry to heaven upon his death. So he approaches his old friend the Devil hoping to find an eternal resting place. BUT - the Devil honors his bargain and refuses Jack’s soul; throwing a blazing piece of coal at him for good measure. With nowhere to go, Jack places the blazing coal into a turnip as a lantern and wanders earth as a dead man until he can find his eternal resting place. Eeeek.
Yvie’s nightmares started with a doll, which appeared mostly normal until you walked past. The sensors would activate and suddenly the doll would shriek and begin a stabbing motion with a blood stained knife … (note: they’re called BAD DOLLS and you can buy them on ebay).
My initial reaction - WTF? Why would anyone buy such a thing? But as my exposure to these super creepy decorations became more and more saturated I realized that fright - genuine fright - is simply part of Halloween here. There were 7” tall Jack of Lanterns reaching out at you, life sized werewolves growling at you, zombies that crawl and decapitated heads galore. But … that’s not how I choose to remember them.
Yvie asked me why we didn’t have zombies in our front yard? My response? I can imagine Grandad passing through the otherworld’s veil to coax a pumpkin into screaming boo. That’s funny and innocent - right? I can imagine Grandpa making a newspaper rustle unprompted. I can even imagine a few witches of our ancient past floating by with their vindictive potions. What I can not understand is why anyone would choose to remember their ancestors past as a half eaten, flesh starved, brain craving ZOMBIE - or worse - a knife wielding doll.
As the true darkness of this festival became apparent to me, I felt devastated by it. Death isn’t funny. I don’t wish to run or hide from the spirits of the people I’ve lost. I want to welcome them home and feel their embrace one more time. I want the children who ask for treats to respect their soul cake in return for honoring my father and my husbands father. I want the tricks to be innocent and funny, not so horrifying that my children hide in the closet fearing their memory. What are we actually promoting here?
There is an upside to Halloween though and it’s called Day of the Dead or Día de los Muertos. Next year, rather than carving pumpkins - I’ll be watching Coco, making sugar skulls & painting marigolds. It’s just so much nicer!