by | Oct 29, 2017 | Chris Goff | 3 comments

by Chris Goff
Mardee as Carrot Top

I’m in the same camp as my fellow rogue, Sonja Stone. I was “that” mom, too. With six kids, I made any number of Halloween costumes, including ones for myself and spouse. Here are a few of my favorites.

Addie and Danielle as Trolls (notice the spirit lights)

Wes and I as Martha Stewart and Guard
Me as Tonto (don’t you love the raven?!)
Even Winston partakes in the fun

This year, as Halloween approaches, I’ve been thinking a lot about death. I know it sounds morbid, but I’m just home from spending a week at the bedside of a dying friend. Watching her struggle toward the inevitable outcome of a horrendous disease (cancer) got me thinking about my loved ones who have passed—my mother, my father, grandparents, a cousin, too many friends.

Traditionally, Halloween (a contraction of All Hallows’ Evening also known as Allhalloween) was a time to remember the dead. Some historians trace its roots to the Romans, while most typically link its origins to the Celtic festival of Samhain that marked “summer’s end.” It was a time of offerings. Food and drink (or portions of crops) were left outside for aos si, the souls of the dead. It was believed that the souls would revisit their homes seeking hospitality, so places were set at the table, candles would be lit, prayers said and then the eating, drinking and games would begin.

No longer is bobbing for apples considered a divination ritual to foretell one’s future in matters of death and marriage. No longer do we believe that wearing costumes impersonating aos si (souls of the dead) will protect us, or that carved pumpkins will frighten away evil spirits (the Irish and Scottish traditionally carved turnips). No longer do we associate “trick” with the ill fortune that befell those who didn’t make an offering of treats to the souls of the departed.

Many cultures and religions have days for remembering and praying for the souls of those who have recently departed. Christians held vigils on Allhallowtide (the trifecta of All Hallows’ Eve, All Hallows’ Day and All Souls’ Day). The Aztecs celebrated the Day of the Dead over 3,000 years ago. Still observed, it’s three days when Mexicans traditionally celebrate the lives of relatives who have passed by building altars in remembrance and visiting the cemeteries where their ancestors are buried. They clean the tombs, eat food, dance to music and drink tequila. Hindus remember the dead during the festival of Pitru Paksha, and Neopaganists still observe Samhain.

Still, most of us no longer equate Halloween with religious or pagan celebrations. We no longer wear ONLY costumes emulating evil spirits (hence the plethora of princesses and super heroes); we no longer use Halloween as an occasion to remember the dead. But for me, this year will be different. Beginning October 31st, I plan to celebrate the lives of my loved ones who have passed by cooking a feast, lighting candles, setting an extra place for them at my table, and—after 5 o’clock somewhere—raising a glass of mezcal.

Join me?

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  1. Karna Bodman

    What an interesting historic summary of Halloween and how it has evolved – along with your thoughts and prayers for loved ones. Yes, it's truly a good time to not only celebrate with the little ones who come to our doors on October 31, but to recall and celebrate those who have gone before. Thanks, Chris, for a great post!

  2. S. Lee Manning

    I knew some of this, but not all. Great history of the holiday.

  3. Sonja Stone

    Chris, I love love love the Martha Stewart costume. It's a good thing!

    Thank you for the history lesson, as well. I love the idea of breaking break with the spirit of loved ones who've passed on. I'll join you!