If “every cloud has a silver lining” the silver lining of the 2020 Covid-19 cloud is that it has driven a stake into the heart of trick or treating and other aspects of that most unfortunate American cultural export called Halloween.
The origins of Halloween are tenuously traced to Celtic celebration of the harvest, featuring a harvest moon when the Earth was thought to be closest to heaven, reverence for departed ancestors, solemnity and spirituality.
Modern Halloween, as it has virally swept through much of the world, is irreverent, shallow, trivial and commercial.
Although except for their almost total domination of Europe from Ireland to Iran most of what is known of the Celts and their Druid religious practices is speculative, it is generally accepted that Catholic monks took note of the popularity of Druid harvest rites, morphed them into an All Souls or All Saints ritual of their own and laid the cornerstones of modern Halloween in the churchyard.
In Mexico and Guatemala, the traditional All Saints or Todos Santos celebration features reverence for family and ancestors and in Guatemala the additional original touch of flying messages to the departed on kites, so as to be closer to heaven.
Elsewhere, and lamentably increasingly in Mexico and Guatemala, Halloween has become a costumed escape from reality, an occasion for adult silliness, and a huge commercial success built on candy corn instead of the real thing.
Instead of harvesting the modern corn, the substitute corn serves as currency for low level extortion known as trick or treating.
Let’s go back to the Druids, their celebration of harvest, veneration of ancestors, and non-commercial spirituality.
Carlisle Johnson writes from his home in Guatemala.