Why do we celebrate holidays like Halloween?

Kevin Alexander

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Let me preface my comments by cautioning everyone against turning this thread into a religious discussion as that is not the purpose of my post here. Anyway, as I drive around through the city and around the different neighboorhoods including my own, I can't help but to notice all around us these visually frightening and morbid images depicting death, decapitation, violence, demonism, and extreme gore w/ a sort of "pleasure" about it all mixed in. Today, for example, I was driving by a yard w/ Halloween props showing someone burying a hatchet into the skull of someone else w/ fake blood squirting out. Then it sort of dawns on me: "What's the purpose of Halloween?" Any other time of the year, all of the things mentioned above related to Halloween (death and gore and the like) are shunned and abhorred by society and the world in general. We view people that practice and cause these things as the bottom feeders of humanity, people that we feel should be "put out" of their misery, or at the very least, locked away and never, ever see the light of day ever again.

Yet every year at the end of October, people decorate their houses w/ corpses, severed heads, images of blood and gore, and afterwards dress their kids up in costumes to celebrate the very thing that society views as disgusting during the other 364 days of the year. All of this got me to wondering where all of this originated and why it's so popular. Maybe it's a kid thing coupled w/ the fact that I'm 36 and don't have kids myself. Also, maybe it's just the hype and advertising that the retailers barrage us with each year. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a scary flick at times, but when it comes to Halloween, everything just seems so over the top nowadays.
 

JimPeitersen

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I would say that people celebrate for a number of reasons:

1. Marketing! (People feel they should because they are being told they should by very smart marketing departments).
2. It lets people release that hidden "macabre" side that all humans have, since society sanctions it for a "holiday."
3. It allows adults (some with far too much disposable income) to act like kids for a short time.
BTW - I would venture a guess that most Americans are ignorant of the All Hallows Eve issues surrounding this holiday.

Just my take on this and other "holidays."
JP
 

Alex-C

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If you're interested in the origins of Halloween, you can look at many site s on the web, including here.
For one thing, it is a tradition for many people. And say what you will, but there are many people who believe in perpetuating and continuing traditions of all kinds. For example, have you ever questioned why hazing occurs ? Why is it an accepted behavior to humiliate those beyond reproach.

Secondly, have you ever read any volumes of classic nursery rhimes ? Brothers Grimm etc.
I am not trying to draw too close a parallel between those and Halloween, which has its own storied and well documented history. But traditional nursery rhymes, which were used and passed on for a much longer time that the relatively small time we have been celebrating Halloween the way its done today, were filled with images, stories, and lessons that contained an equal amount of gory images, especially considering the era in which they were popularized.

For one thing, Halloween is fun. Plain old simple fun. Each of our traditional holidays in this country have there place and, well, traditions, but only Halloween allows us to celebrate something in an otherwise, alternatively ritualistic pagan fashion. And I happen to believe, that its this "departure from the norm or what would otherwise be acceptable" is what gives Halloween its unique allure. If you were went to a group of a random cross section of citizens of the United States and shared your Halloween decorations of "demonic images", most would consider that a tradition; but if you did this all year long, I am sure you would be "shunned by society" to some extent.

For one thing, putting a pine tree in your living room is equally arbritrary and weird as is fireworks on Independence Day. I mean, it doesn't include demonic imagery, but compared to what constitutes a normal everyday life for many people, putting a dying tree in their house complete with blinking lights, is just as strange. In the context of history and the traditions that (arguably) many were brought up with, its not strange at all. Why ? Because it represents a whole lot, and I mean a lot, for many people !

Many traditions are weird. Those that have their roots in superstitions are even weirder, so if you went around and questioned all traditions carried out on a daily basis in this (or any other, for that matter) country, you would surely be dizzy in bewilderment at the odd rituals taking place.
 

MarkHastings

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Kevin, MANY holidays and traditions always have a real meaning hidden somewhere deep behind all the bizarre displays, but through the years, the meaning gets stretched and stretched until it resembles something altogether different.

Halloween originated as a way of honoring the souls of departed relatives and ancestors. People used to make altars with foods, candles, photos, etc. in remembrance.

They used to make sugary skulls to suggest that death was no something to be feared, but that death was sweet and something to be celebrated.

That's just one aspect of the tradition...masks were originally worn because Halloween was the day where people thought that ghosts roamed the earth and if you wore a mask, you'd be mistaken for a dead soul.

As the years go by, these traditions get stretched until we start doing things "just because". Holidays are no longer about the traditions from which they started from. We've turned them into 'commercialized' holidays and once you get rid of the original tradition, there's tons of room for overkill.

The bloody display you is nothing more than what happens when you take a tradition and not completely follow it.

I mean, how many people actually celebrate halloween for what it really means? We just took over the ghouslish aspect of it and made up our own concept of what it's supposed to mean.
 

Robert Crawford

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Halloween ain't what it used to be which was real fun for the kids. The days of trick or treating for 3-4 hours without your parents worrying whether you'll be coming back home safely are long gone.




Crawdaddy
 

Henry Gale

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People still do, lots of them. Dia De Los Muertos, The Day of the Dead, is celebrated anywhere there is a Mexican population. I can tell you from personal experience that it is also celebrated by many Anglos in South Texas. Part of that altar decoration is some excellent tequila.
 

andrew markworthy

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What I want to know as a Brit is why American adults have muscled in on what is a kids' thing. To many Brits, the site of our cousins across the water getting excited about Halloween is about at baffling as if you all decided to play on the swings and in the sandpit. And before anyone says that there are various adult-led Halloween festivals in the UK, there are - typically in isolated communities where inbreeding is rife.

Unfortunately, the Americanisation of Halloween continues unabated in the UK. When I was a kid, the most you got were a few cheap masks and most of your time was spent playing mildly innocuous tricks (no concept of treats back then). Going into my local supermarket yesterday, there was an entire aisle full of Halloween outfits, masks, and bags of cheap sweets to pay off the protection racket of trick or treaters. Plus (God help us) a pumpkin-shaped pinata (apologies if the spelling is horribly wrong). And lanterns now have to be made out of pumpkins (it used to be turnip when I was a kid - at least the content when cooked actually tastes of something, unlike the mush that is pumpkin).

As a much-misunderstood Englishman said about another commercialised season of the year, 'Bah, humbug'.

 

Eric_L

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Here's your answer;

http://www.haloweencostume.com/

Heh - halloween is not just about gore - it is really the first holiday of the winter. If you notice - most holidays occur during the winter months. I am convinced that it is no accident. That is a way of breaking the monotony and making things a bit easier on people during the more dreary part of the year.

Halloween is the first one as winter begins. It is a chance to dress up and be someone - or something - different for a day. That is cetrainly a freeing experience. You also get to make fun of something that makes most people uncomfortable. Just like the old 'dead baby' jokes there is some freedom given at laughing at what makes us uncomfortable. Finally it is the sheer frivolity of it all. It is a totally stupid event and a chance to be totally stupid. Talk about freedom!
 

Chu Gai

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Is this the elitist attitude in the British universities? Certainly there must've been some inbreeding in the Monarchy, no?
 

Henry Gale

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We need to bring the seductive powers of the mask into this discussion. If you’ve ever put one on, you know the personality changing that goes with it. All the superheroes use them, even if it’s only glasses removal.

In Austin, there are 3 big costume parties every year.
First we have Carnaval, the next one will be Feb 3 2007. This party is indoors because even in Austin February can get cold.
Three months after that, the last Saturday in April we celebrate Eeyore’s Birthday Party in a huge park just west of downtown.
At both of these gatherings you can expect, in addition to masks, a lot of drums, a lot of skin and a lot of smoke.
Then there’s Halloween.
For that one we close many downtown streets to traffic and promenade.
There’s at least one huge shop, Judy in Disguise, which does a great business from all this revelry.


http://images.dpchallenge.com/images...rig/333993.jpg
 

gene c

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Halloween isn't a holiday. It's a celebration or activity. I agree with others that it's a release. We have taken it's original meaning (whatever it is) and turned it into something we want it to be. As with everything else, some people take it to far. But if it's done with humor instead of horror then I'm O.K. with it. I've always enjoyed Dracula, Frankenstein, The Munsters and Casper, but never got into the slasher movies. Anything that brings people together (love Halloween parties) ) instead of pushing them apart is alright with me. Within reason, of course!
 

MarkHastings

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Agreed.

andrew, your confusion (about adults participating in Halloween) reminds me of a joke on the Simpsons...

Millhouse: "Who are the Beatles?"
Bart: "They wrote all the songs on Maggies records"

i.e. Bart thinks the bastardization of the Beatles (i.e. their songs being on kids records) is where they started off.

Meaning, Halloween started off as something adults did (i.e. "The Day of the Dead" from Henry's post), then it turned into this "kid" holiday. IIRC, The Day of the Dead was a Mexican/Spanish tradition that was seen by Christians and they took the concepts and made it into something of their own.

So when we now have adults participating in it, it's not like we're participating in a kids holiday, we're just participating in the bastardization that was created FOR the kids! The real meaning has nothing to do with kid participation.


But seriously, I don't find adult participation any more confusing than non Irish participating in St. Patricks Day. During St. Pats day, everyone has this "I'm Irish today" attitude (which is fine), just like most adults have this "I'm a kid today" attitude during Halloween.

Or it's no different than those expensive action figures most of us collect and display in our homes. When you're a kid, you can't afford to do those kinds of things, but now that we are older, we can do the things we always wanted to do as a child (i.e. on a bigger/grander scale).

Oh, and I think the adult participation comes from the fact that most adults accompany their children while trick-or-treating...Some of these adults would dress up to go along with the kids. I'm sure that's where the adult costume originated.
 

Eric_L

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I have Bob and Doug Mckenzie still in the box with Elsinore beer and everything!
 

David Williams

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Without bringing religion into it, Halloween started as a Celtic end of year/harvest festival in Ireland 3,000 years ago called Samhain. It was co-opted when Christian religion moved into the area in later centuries. Concepts from Day of the Dead were folded in to Halloween celebration, but only much, much later.

For anyone interested in the history of Halloween, History Channel has been airing The Haunted History of Halloween the last few days. It's on again at 7/6c tonight.
 

andrew markworthy

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Well, the monarchy dress up in silly costumes at all times of the year. As regards elitist attitude, if anyone's interpreting it seriously, then the answer is that this is a traditional joke in the UK about the countryside and has no malice behind it (there's an equal number of remarks about 'townies').
 

Jeff Gatie

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Ahh, I see. We have the same sort of humorous references handed down from our academics and city dwellers towards our country folk. All those trailer park quips about cousins marrying are quite the laugh getter at the big social gatherings (of course with absolutely no malice intended or implied). We in the cities refer to it as "quaint". Our country folk have a different name for it, though. They call it elitest.
 

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