Many of us view Halloween as a time for fun, putting on costumes, trick-or-treating, and having theme parties. Americans, in particular, love Halloween. It is the second highest grossing commercial holiday after Christmas.
Amid commercialism, the holiday has a rich and interesting history.
Halloween, also known as All Hallows Eve, has its origins from a Celtic festival for the dead called Samhain which means summer in Gaelic. This was a harvest festival which was held around end of October, and huge bonfires were set up, marking the end of the Celtic year and the beginning of a new one.
Samhain is also thought to have been a time of communing with the dead. The Celts believed that it was a day when spirits of the dead would cross over to the other world and roam the streets and villages on this night.
Since not all spirits were thought to be friendly, gifts and treats were left out to appease the roaming spirits and ensure that next year’s crops would be plentiful.
Christianity introduced to the Celts All Saints Day, a holiday similar but holier which was meant to honor saints and martyrs. Later on, All Saints Day was renamed “All Hallows Eve” and eventually shortened to “Hallowe’en.”
The practice of trick-or-treating dates back to the custom of “souling” in Medieval England when poor people would knock on doors on the eve of November 1, asking for food in exchange for prayers for the dead.
Playing pranks started to get dangerous in America in the ‘30s so parents and town leaders began to encourage dressing up and trick-or-treating as a safe alternative to doing pranks. The holiday became commercialized where the selection of costumes has gone beyond witches, ghouls, ghosts and monsters to include a child’s favorite superhero or fairytale character.
Some kids may be arachnophobic, but did you know that if you see a spider on Halloween, it is believed to be the spirit of a loved one watching over you?
Halloween may be viewed as a harmless and fun-filled day with loads of entertainment for their children, but some child psychologists and child development experts contend that while it may appeal to some children, the mental image and rituals involved may prove too extreme for the very young ones, and in some cases, even for those with a high threshold for fear.
“Halloween is also difficult for young kids to understand—why would a person do something scary on purpose? Preschoolers are also creatures of habit, so fear is often the way they react to unpredictable and unexpected events,” says Dr. Peter Gillen a psychologist at Bradley Hospital in Rhode Island, USA.
Gillen suggests that parents could offer alternative activities to distract from the scary aspects of the holiday such as carving the pumpkin or getting the candy ready. For children who are especially fearful, rather than making them go trick-or-treating, parents may want to have them assist with handing out candy instead, making them feel safer and more secure in their own home.
When parents help their children confront their fears in a calm and assuring manner, their anxiety will naturally lessen and over time, they will be able to build confidence to face those fearful situations and to even learn to enjoy them.
Halloween may seem like a very secular holiday, but there are distinctly Christian aspects to the holiday that are worth celebrating with the family. As the main purpose of this feast is to remember those who have died, we can teach our children to set aside a day to pray for a dearly departed loved one—a family member, a friend, even a beloved house pet.
Several gated subdivisions around the metropolis have recently opened their doors to one day of trick-or-treating for less fortunate kids, and we can use this as a valuable teaching moment to instill in our children the virtue of generosity and sensitivity to others’ needs.
Halloween can also be an avenue for creativity among older kids and teens. As parents, we all know that at a certain age, kids “dress to impress.” Encouraging them to come up with their own costumes for that much awaited Halloween party can bring out the creative juices of your child.
So whether you view Halloween as a harmless day where children dress up in costumes and go door to door asking for candy, a day of useless spectacle of fright, or a special day to commemorate the souls of our dear departed, one thing is for sure … the tradition of Halloween is here to stay!
Sources: livescience.com, huffingtonpost.com, halloween-website.com