Halloween and other related holidays like Dia de los Muertos and All Saints Day are traditionally focused on our relationships with the ultimate mystery, death. It is a time when we can easily contact the dead - both beloved ancestors and the less benign sprites and most of our current Halloween traditions spring out of the modern European fears of the dead. We light Jack O Lanterns, dress up in costumes and hand out candy at the door all to confuse or appease those possibly mean spirited beings. In Mexican and Spanish culture traditions still reflect a more caring relationship with the dead. It is a time when families clean up the grave sites of their ancestors and tell stories about their lives.
I have been working to spend part of the Halloween season each year thinking about those who have died. I am fortunate enough to never had any very close friends or relatives die and have a hard time really bringing that part of the season to a personal level. This year I redecorated my personal altar and added photos of a friend from high school, my grandfather and my childhood dog who have all died. I also included images representing extinct or endangered species whose loss to this world I feel almost more acutely than the loss of a grandfather I never knew, a dog whose time had come or a woman who lived an amazingly full if painfully short life.
In my life Halloween is a time of dressing up and going to crazy parties. I feel this is very much within the spirit of the holiday and is a heckuva lot of fun. This year I dressed up as a substitute teacher complete with a terrible pink cardigan and a kick me sign. It's always so fun to see how creative my friends get. This year I met Mother Nature and Father Time, Peter Pan, When Pigs Fly and an Upside Down guy. It's fun to play someone else for an evening, to masquerade in the anonymity of a costume party.
However, being not yourself has it's dangers. Sometimes we feel free to do things we wouldn't do when we are ourselves. In past years the malicious sprites of these dark nights have truly wrecked havoc on my life. One year someone threw a pumpkin through the windshield of my car. Who would do that if they were feeling responsible for their actions? More than once I have said or done unwise things while under the influence of alcohol and party crazyness. I am generally a thoughtful and responsible person, but when in costume we feel free to do things we would never do otherwise.
This year we made it through with no major incidents, thank the ancestors! Fun was had by all and we got to celebrate the turning of the wheel of the year in all out costume party style. And now we settle into a dark, wet winter.