If someone were to ask me what my favorite holiday was, I would answer Halloween. Immediately, the response: Why? As if it is slightly ridiculous for someone to favor this holiday over the others.
Most Americans either love or hate Halloween. The lovers enjoy dressing up and eating candy, and the haters find it childish or don't like scary things and treats. What I find to be incredibly unfortunate is that so many people overlook this holiday when it really means so much more than just spooks and silliness. Halloween has not always been an excuse for frivolity and dressing up like your favorite color Power Ranger.
The celebration's recorded origins date back to 2,000 years ago when the Celts celebrated a festival, Samhain, that took place when the barrier between the dead and the living worlds is said to be the thinnest. The Celts believed that on this day, the dead would come back to this world to cause trouble and to help Druid priests make predictions that would assist the Celts in surviving the rugged environment in which they lived. To commemorate these happenings, the Celts would hold huge sacred bonfires, wear costumes and attempt to tell each other's fortunes.
Then came the Romans, who, after conquering the Celts' lands, mixed that celebration with two of their own festivals: one, called Feralia, celebrated the dead, and the other celebrated the Roman goddess of fruit and trees, Pomona. The Christian pope eventually decided he needed to replace this über-Celt-Roman festival with one approved by the Church, so he created Allhallowmas and All Hallows Eve, the night preceding Allhallowmas.
That festival was eventually expanded into a triad of days: All Hallows Eve (Oct. 31), All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2). The many names or the slight differences in celebration rituals aren't that important; what is important is that no matter what you call that holiday or how long you celebrate it, it is supposed to have a uniform purpose: to honor those who bravely paved a way for us and our ways of living.
For each culture you mostly did the same things: held bonfires, wore costumes and gathered together with family, friends and members of your community to remember those you had loved and lost as well as those ancestors who had given their world to you.
Unfortunately, modern culture - more specifically, American culture - has let go of this true meaning and twisted the holiday into another way to part consumers from their cash. A few societies have managed to preserve the true intentions of the holiday. For example, El Día de Los Muertos in Mexico is a beautiful holiday that celebrates memories and family bonding.
When people say to me that Halloween is stupid, I like to point out that our American version is a little dumb, but that Halloween can mean so much more if you want it to. I use the holiday to have fun, but also to fondly remember my lost loved ones. What will you celebrate this Halloween?