Open Thinkering


Tag: Halloween

Why we don’t celebrate Hallowe’en in our house

As a write this post we’ve got the lights off at the front of our house and, instead of being parked on the drive, our car is parked in a nearby street. Why? It’s Hallowe’en.

It’s not that we live in a rough neighbourhood and I’m scared of the kids. It’s that I:

  • can’t (as a historian/philosopher) see the point in it
  • don’t wish to celebrate evil, even implicitly
  • think that it’s 99% marketing-fuelled

Ten quick facts about Hallowe’en:

  1. It’s not a pagan festival.
  2. It was originally a couple of days of feasting without much religious or supernatural significance.
  3. Before the 8th century it was celebrated in May.
  4. It’s related to the enthusiastic ringing of bells by Catholics on All Souls Day to assist the passage of souls from purgatory.
  5. Hallowe’en traditions almost completely died out in England before the 20th century.
  6. Around this time, girls traditionally attempted to find out via various ‘signs’ – such as brushing their hair at midnight in front of a mirror – who they would marry.
  7. In 1950s England people either celebrated Guy Fawkes night or Hallowe’en, depending on geographic location.
  8. There was an ‘explosion of interest’ in Hallowe’en in the 1970s/80s and ‘trick or treating’ due to the influence of American TV series and films such as ET (1982) which depicted such scenes.
  9. Teachers have been accused of encouraging the spread of Hallowe’en celebrations to remove the focus on Guy Fawkes (‘Bonfire’) Night and associated safety concerns.
  10. Hallowe’en parties in England have been going since around the 1920s/30s and are now the busiest time of the year for fancy-dress hire shops.

The above were gleaned from a book I came across this weekend at Barter Books. I added photos of relevant pages to my Evernote account.

So, in conclusion, dressing up as something scary and begging is not something I’ll be encouraging my children to do when they’re old enough. Whilst I could open the door and lecture each group of children, the words ‘water’ and ‘off a duck’s back’ spring to mind. And, to be honest, I don’t want to be ‘that guy’.

The power of the media and invented tradition is, unfortunately, too powerful.