Hallowe'en reloaded

When I was younger and my children were teenagers, we would sometimes get little souvenir presents from friends who visited the US. From late August until the end of October, these would usually contain name brand sneakers (those were considerably cheaper in the US), fancy T-shirts and all sorts of Halloween-paraphernalia, usually candycorn, chocolates and miniature pumpkin pies. At a time, when Hallowe'en was practically unknown as a holiday in continental Europe, my kids loved taking the sweets to school, sharing them with their friend and making up their own spooky little games.

Nowadays you can find the shops in my hometown stuffed with Boooo- and pumpkin-style decorations. Garlands, buntings, window-stickers, candles, sweets, little buckets for collecting even more sweets...you name it. And although I love the idea of celebrating the dead and getting in touch with your own mortality, I truly dislike the way these ideas have been commercialized.


It seems strange now, that even a decade and a half ago, there was no such thing as going from door to door scaring people into giving you sweets (unless of course you count the three days of German Carnival in February, when we would all dress up and stop cars and other travellers in the streets. For these purposes we had little poems which we would recite and usually end up with a little extra-money or symbolic coins made out of chewy fudge and wrapped in gold foil). Halloween was simply the day before All Saints Day and the only tradition we had was getting up early in order to get our relatives' graves ready for winter and having hot drinks and Soul Cakes in the afternoon.

By the way, we did have Jack-O'-Lanterns, but those were called Root-Ghosts since their heads were carved out of turnips, which were much more popular than pumpkins back in the day.


Did you actually know that the tradition of dressing up as ghosts and other creatures from the other side comes from the fact that the borders between the world of the living and the world of the dead were considered to be particularly thin at this time of year, and, according to superstition, you were a lot safer when whatever ghost you bumped into on your way home considered you to be one of them and left you alone instead of following you home like a lost soul.

„Do not upset the dead and leave the spirits alone!“ seems to be the motto of the day. Different traditions have evolved around the world in order to follow that rule: We redecorate and replant graves. We cook special meals and leave some of them outside for visitors from the other side or set the table for one extra person. We bake and lavishly decorate soul- or spirit-cakes. In some areas people picnick in the churchyards and in areas like Mexico, this day is as special as Christmas.


And yes, I am game. I love traditions and I love the idea of having a time of the year when the walls between the worlds are thin and you have a wonderfully unique chance of getting in touch with your inner voice and the world around and ahead of you. Cartomancy workshops around this time are usually very fruitful. People really seem to get in the spirit so much more easily and their intuition is definitely stronger, which is particularly wonderful if you are a beginner.

What I resent is the idea of making money out of almost anything that once had a spiritual, traditional or religious component, which is put aside in order to reach a bigger target audience of potential buyers by creating a „fun“ event.


On that note, I would like to ask you for your opinions on the matter or even events like Halloween in general. Does the spirit kick in? And how do you deal with the event?