Thursday, October 21, 2010

Halloween Horror

Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain. The festival is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture. The Gaels believed that on October 31, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped, and the deceased would come back to life and wreak havoc by causing sickness or destroying crops. Masks and costumes were worn in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or appease them. Trick or treating resembles the late medieval practice of 'souling' where poor people would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1) receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2).

Early migrants from Europe carried the Halloween festival to America where it was elevated to a whole new ball park, made into an art form and a massive money spinner. The celebration of the macabre, the dark side of life or death, even for skeptics, is big business now. And it's great fun too. It is one of the great American holidays and is an entrenched part of American culture. Every television show that has ever been made has featured a Halloween special. From The Simpsons to Supernatural, the ghosts and ghouls, the jack o lantern, costume wearing, and trick or treating are woven into the fabric of the modern pysche. And let's not forget the multitude of slasher and horror movies which have been inspired by Halloween, including the classic series of films which featured the deranged Jason violently murdering people on October 31.

Naturally, Australians who slavishly follow United States pop culture trends, have embraced Halloween. Why, I do not know. I know why businesses push it. They see dollar signs. Halloween has been added to the crowd of marketing gimmicks, like Valentine's Day which is another crock. Here's a day to do this, and to do this, you need to buy this and that. Hand over your money. Hand over your brain. Let's follow the corpulent zombies, dance with the witches and join with the damned as hell breaks loose over our land. Happy Halloween! Bah Humbug!

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if our fascination with vampires (and when I say 'our' I'm speaking on behalf of all of modern, western society as I'm so eminently qualified to do) derives from the same source/ motivation/ feeling that our enjoyment of halloween does. We love to be able to experience/ partake of horror while feeling completely safe at the same time. But, actually, that's not a modern, western phenomenon - there is evidence eg. Greek tragedy - that humanity has always had that tendency. David Denby talks a bit about that in his book, 'Great Books'.