A friendly resource for women who want to lead better lives

Death and Halloween

It wasn’t until fairly recently that I realized that there are people who dislike Halloween. Being raised outside of the U.S. Halloween seemed to me like such a fun day, one that everyone participated in. I was a bummed when I learned about alternatives to Halloween at churches and some people just wishing the day away. I am not going to lie, I thought it was silly.

As I get older and maybe because I am a parent, however, I realize that I don’t actually love this day. It would not be the first time someone calls me the “fun police,” so you can go ahead and call me that too. Before you do, know that I don’t hate the day, but I do have issues with some of the parts that make it what it is. If you don’t like Halloween, now I understand.

I think kids dressed up are fun and cute, although I could do without the overly commercial costumes, the racially offensive ones and the sexy anythings that many women, and sadly girls, go for. If you watched Sex and the City, you may remember one of Myranda’s quotes about Halloween: “The only two choices for women; witch and sexy kitten.” This is a subject for a different post, though.

Sexy outfits are probably what I dislike the most, but I could also do without the blow-up decorations in people’s front yards, and the sounds of screams in Halloween-themed toys. I cannot get over the excessive candy, and other junk, and the taking kids to strangers’ homes- this probably isn’t a problem if you live in a neighborhood where people actually know each other.

I do love driving by the couple of houses in town that are really well decorated, not as much as I do during Christmas though, but my home is scantily decorated for the season with a large, stubby, pale orange pumpkin and a trio of small gourds. I try to keep spider webs out of my house, not bring them in!

Pumpkins

I brought home gourds from the pumpkin patch, but not a Jack O’ Lantern

The darkness of this day, with the undead and the ghosts is what I think gets to some people. What exactly are we doing dressing up our kids as scary characters? Vampires, witches, ghosts? Aren’t we supposed to be afraid of them?

These characters are not real, of course, but they do represent the other world, what may happen after we die. The disconnect with the holiday, I feel, is due in part to the relationship we have with death in our society. In other countries, the days between October 31st and November 2nd, Hollow’s Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day, are celebrated by remembering loved ones no longer with us.

I love the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) tradition of Mexico and other Latin American countries, where among other festivities, families put together beautiful and colorful shrines for their loved ones. If you haven’t heard or seen anything related to this, this photo gallery from National Geographic is a good start.

These shrines take a lot of work and effort to put together, and it is often done as a family; they include pictures, foods the person liked and any other mementos that honor the loved one. The time spent putting these together offer a way to remember those now gone, honoring them with their favorite things in life. It is bitter-sweet, in my opinion, by I really like it.

In Spain, where I grew up, people visit the cemetery around this time of the year and clean up their loved ones graves as a sign of both respect for the dead and family dignity. There are also special pastries eaten during this time of the year, Saint’s Bones – a white cilinder-shapped pastry made with almond paste. I always loved seeing them show up in bakeries in the fall, even though in my house we never ate them until one year when I asked my mom if we could try them.

These traditions are lovely ways of recognizing those who have died, being grateful for the time we had with them, as well as having a healthier relationship with our inevitable death.

I don’t want to be hypocritical here. I have dressed up in more than one occasion for Halloween, and I will be dressing up my son on the 31st. When he is a bit older, we will carve pumpkins together, and if he wants to, he’ll be able to dress up like a ghost or a vampire, but not like a character that we may consider offensive. I want him to enjoy Halloween for what it is, but also realize that our dead must be remembered.

– Olivia

What is your take on Halloween? Love it? Hate it?

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