Monday, October 24, 2011

Thinking Thoughts of Halloween

I guess you may have noticed there is no giveaway this Monday. Sorry about that. I didn't have anything lined up and have had such a busy, chaotic day. I do have something here I wanted to give away... just a little something I wound up with two of. Check back with me tomorrow on that.
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As it is only a week away, my thoughts are on Halloween right now. Do you celebrate it? For the past four years we've taken the girls trick-or-treating and even had a few parties. And I'm really, really sick of doing it that way. I'm sick of the sugar and the late nights out. And I'm really sick of my children being frightened by scary costumes (parents being just as bad, if not worse than teens) and over the top lawn decorations. Even going into stores with a Halloween aisle is enough to frighten Zoe. She's very timid and there really seems to be no place on Halloween for children that aren't already exposed to scary things (ie television, movies and other media).

Death is a part of life and something children should be taught not to fear. But Halloween in our culture is not about remembering the departed or death as a natural step in life. The life process in nature has been coming up, mainly with Kaiya, as we're exploring autumnal changes. I think it was particularly this story from the Tiptoes Lightly books that put things into focus for her, without my realizing it. It wasn't until we passed a cemetery while we were on a hayride that I saw how much she was taking in. I very absentmindedly pointed out, 'Look, a cemetery' and the girls asked me what that was. I replied 'That's where people are buried after they die' and they wanted to know why. 'Because what else are you going to. do. with. the. bodies?' Not really my shining moment as a parent. I could imagine visions of lifeless people heaped in graves dancing through their heads. But, no. Kaiya, without missing a beat, said 'Oh, and their bodies go into the ground and help things grow?'
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Ah, yes! The cycle of life goes on and on. Why couldn't it be that simple for all of us? One living thing dies, breaks down and makes way for new life. Death really is a part of life but our culture has morphed it into this grotesque thing to be feared. And never more than at Halloween when we dress up in some truly disturbing costumes (that's if we're not letting it all hang out) and fill our minds full of scary movies and haunted houses... the gorier the better! My mother always told me that when we watch horror movies they rob us of our peace, and I have to agree. I watched many, pre- children, pre- marriage and some of those images are still with me. Isn't there enough ugliness in the world without chasing it down and inviting it in, especially into our children's minds?
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But, I think the thing that is bothering me the most is, what's it all about? I mean really? I'm on a mission right now, have been for the past year, and that's to bring meaning and spirit into our celebrations and if they lack that then do them over completely or drop them like a hot potato. I've always said that I just love the fun of it, the dressing up and going out. And that's true, it is fun. But, is that it? Really? Are you OK with that? I'm really curious, is that just me? I've been digging and... Halloween is really complicated and has so much history! I've been struggling to find what is meaningful for us in this holiday. But then I found this article and it's really helping me to bring Halloween into focus. I think it's particularly this part that is bringing it together for me.
"To the ancient Celts, the year had two "hinges". These were Beltaine (the first of May) and Samhain, (the first of November), which is also the traditional Celtic New Year. And these two days were the most magical, and often frightening times of the whole year.
The Celtic people were in superstitious awe of times and places "in between". Holy sites were any border places - the shore between land and water (seas, lakes, and rivers), bridges, boundaries between territories (especially when marked by bodies of water), crossroads, thresholds, etc. Holy times were also border times - twilight and dawn marking the transitions of night and day; Beltaine and Samhain marking the transitions of summer and winter. Read your myths and fairytales - many of the stories occur in such places, and at such times. "
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On this night it is believed that the veil between this world and the unseen is the thinnest and spirits of all kinds are able to pass between worlds. It is a time when the spirits of loved ones passed are thought to be able to communicate with the living, also a time when fairies and other nature spirits are loosed among us. So, this is my foundation. Halloween, a time of magic and bringing an awareness to the world of spirit and magic. And a time to look back on and revere our ancestors. Phew! That's a tall order for three small children. But I have learned better than to underestimate them.

Please share with me how you're celebrating Halloween, what kinds of traditions have you adopted to make this celebration meaningful for your family?