Published on October 31st, 2012 | by Sarah Pace Warrington0
Sit for a spell and have some brew.
It’s that time of year again – bring out your pumpkins and witches’ hats, put the cauldron on to boil and settle down with a good spellbook. Sarah Pace Warrington offers her take on one of the most popular days of the year.
It exposes people to “sadism, sexual violence, irrational thought, torture, mutilation and strange killing”. Say what? Some of you may remember the commotion created last year over the printing and distribution of anti-Halloween flyers in certain Maltese localities. Opinions were varied, from outrage and amusement, righteous indignation to wholehearted agreement. Halloween, like almost everything else in this country, leads to heated debates and raised blood pressure. But really, what does Halloween mean to us Maltese?
No, I’m not talking about the pagan traditions it’s thought to promote – no dancing round bonfires in the nude for me, thank you very much. Halloween, as we know it today, seems to be more of an excuse for kids to steal their mums’ best sheets and cut holes in them and the one night of the year they are allowed to run to strangers’ houses and threaten them with grievous bodily harm if their sugar rush induced demands are not met.
Halloween has found a firm footing in many countries, a holiday of sorts that promises fun for all – children have an excuse to dress up, parents can groan as they’re forced to buy yet another Spiderman costume, and neighbours, the world over, lock and bolt their doors in the hope that the 31st will not mean a house covered in toilet paper, or worse still, eggs. Granted, most of us may find the image of a TP’d house or car amusing enough, but when those missiles start flying, there’s generally an unhappy owner surveying the gooey mess left behind. Should it be seen as frivolous fun or, more seriously, as vandalism? My sympathies go to those who have to deal with this problem year after year – I can assure you, my reaction would be to throw those eggs right back and hope I hit the culprits. The question is, unless you’re hit in the face with an egg shell, how much harm can Halloween actually do you?
The American holiday has ruffled some feathers in the past and no doubt, will continue to do so. Indeed the origins of Halloween can be traced to pre-Christian traditions and the celebration of Celtic harvest festivals. The ‘spookier’ elements of this day, the ghoulies and ghosties, are rooted in the belief that the veil between purgatory, heaven, hell and the earth becomes weaker, which is itself a Christian notion. It is little wonder then, that more conservative institutions in society are less than amused by what they consider a celebration of the occult. Yes, there may be a few who celebrate Halloween in a way that most of us would find unsavoury, but the little boy you see running from door to door begging for sweets is hardly likely to suddenly sprout horns and sacrifice his poor old neighbour’s cat whilst simultaneously conversing with the Devil (best get those crucifixes ready just in case).
For many, Halloween is like any other day of the year. Sure, we might carve some pumpkins, organise horror movie marathons with our friends, and go to themed parties to get into the spirit of the night. Maybe it’s the ignorance of youth speaking, but it seems to be a select few who consider Halloween to be some sort of corrupting influence on the morals of society. There are undoubtedly those who feel that Halloween is simply another commercial excuse to sell as many cheap vampire fangs as can possibly be produced.
Despite varying opinions on the topic, the general consensus seems to be that Halloween does not awaken any particular passion in most people. It will not lower taxes, pay bills or buy an all-expenses paid trip round the world. But for one night it gives people the opportunity to put on a costume and perhaps a persona to go with it, and forget about being ordinary. People can look forward to another excuse to party the night away, whether dressed as Catwoman, a sexy nurse or Franco Debono.