what is it about hallowe’en?

Posted by Daniela Elza on Nov 01 2009

I keep wondering every year: what is it about… Hallowe’en? If it is a ritual, what is it a ritual of? Yes, we can get into the history of it, but the question I have is more like: What sustains today? What do these motions we go through mean to us today? What is their meaning here in the city scape where we are not even connected to the harvest. To what it means to live off the land. What do these out(word)ly expressions we perform contain at their center. We go for the looks. But what about the contents? Have we gutted it out, the way we pull the seeds out of a pumpkin, hollow it out with a spoon?

Usually, my husband is the one that does the pumpkin carving with the kids and the trick or treating. He doesn’t mind. So I can avoid it mostly, and not worry too much about it. Other than when the time comes to get rid of the rotten pumpkins from my porch. Some of the people I know have also expressed their issues with it. Let’s say they tolerate it.

This year Dethe is travelling, so the quietly simmering crises for meaning (that I mostly keep subdued on the surface) boils over. I will confess, I did not buy pumpkins for carving. I just could not make myself. If lit carved pumpkins are what we need to remember the dead, isn’t it ironic when there are people dying of hunger in the world? Is it not an indulgence putting out a lot of waste?

What does Halloween do for you? I would love to know. What is it a metaphor for? I did not grow up with Hallowe’en. To buy into it I have to really be convinced of the non-commercial “value” of it. I am shopping around for a more sustainable ritual, a ritual that has a lot more spiritual benefit than the waste put out in its name. What happens to the way we grow pumpkins, when we know that most of them will be wasted? Are we growing nutritious pumpkins? Or are we just growing them for the size and the look, not for the taste?

My friend Robin had a photo published on qarrtsiluni titled The Names of the Dead are Floating to Heaven which offers another way of remembering the dead. It is that photo and memories of how my grandmother remembered by lighting a candle, that helped the simmering boil over. I am trying to make this joyful, honestly. But it seems being honest is more precious for me at this time.

Perhaps I am thinking too much. Perhaps I should get more into the spirit of things? Well, that is exactly what I was going for, more for the spirit of things. Perhaps we are living in a world where we probably should start thinking harder. And question what we do and what we know with more vigour. Who benefits the most from our Halloween extravaganza?

So this Halloween, I am not going with the flow, well not entirely. I will perhaps visit the cemetery. Take a flower to a grave. Anyone’s grave. Maybe I will write a poem. I have already made delicious pumpkin pie, from scratch. Including the crusts. DSC04838

And of course will assist my kids with dress up. Whip up the whipping cream. And then I will have to figure out what to do with all the candy they bring home.

2 Responses to “what is it about hallowe’en?”

  1. RobTaylor Says:

    In defense of pumpkin carving: how is turning something into art wasting it? That’s a slippery slope to saying it’s a waste to cut down trees to make paper for creative writing…

    In defense of Halloween: I was at the BC Lions game last night, and thousands of people were there dressed up in the most ridiculous costumes (including myself, my wife and my mother!). Everyone was excited and playful, and there was a genuine sense of community bonding because of it. I can’t say that I feel that during almost any other holiday, because the rest are so private – focused within the family. Original intentions of the holiday aside, that’s got to be worth something, no?

    p.s. If you have extra candy, I’ll happily take it!

  2. Daniela Elza Says:

    Thanks Rob,

    It is a good question about art, and what actions, activities are justified in the name of it. Paper is not as much a concern for me, since there is so much that goes on paper, and it is so pervasively used for all sorts of boring stuff, that using it for poetry, art etc. could perhaps counterbalance? redeem?

    definitely worth thinking about…


    you are definitely getting some candy…

    anyone else:-)?