The ‘holiday’ season is almost here. Of course, I don’t mean the kind of holiday I enjoy (one when you get on a plane and go somewhere interesting). I am talking about the totally meaningless line-up (to me anyway) consisting of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas (the total bank balance buster) and Boxing Day (the sales) with the final flourish for those of us with kids, the Three Kings. The last payday before the first of these is near, so you’d better start saving!
Not so long ago, Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve, was barely celebrated here in Spain, although it was tremendously popular in the United States where adults and children dressed up in spooky and funny costumes and took to the streets to play tricks and have fun. Adults drink pumpkin spiced coffee (vile) and kids eat more sugar than you can imaging.
According to Statistics Portal ‘statista’, retail spending on Halloween products in the United Kingdom was a massive GDP 320 million, up by 100 million since 2013, defining Halloween products as fancy dress, decorations, toys, confectionery and other food and drink items. If that sounds like a waste of money to you and a ton of plastic to go in the landfill, then consider the fact that the same site estimated that Americans had spent a mind-boggling $7.4 billion on the same types of products in 2014 with $350 million going on costumes for pets. Heaven knows how much they’ll be spending this year!
The origins of Halloween are related to the festival of Samhain, which was celebrated by the Celts in Ireland. No candy or Batman costumes were involved, rather druids extinguished the flames of old fires and ceremonially lit others. This would be a very easy ritual these days, but they didn’t have matches or cigarette lighters, and considering how much it rains in Ireland in October and November, I wouldn’t have liked to have been a druid at the time. It would, however, have been a whole lot cheaper than today’s orgy of trash and sugar.
The original festival had a similar meaning to San Juan and Las Fallas in Spain, as well as New Year’s Day around the world, with an ‘out with the old, and in with the new” theme. In days of yore, when the harvest was over, the crops were safely in the barn and animals were brought in for the fields for slaughter or breeding, it was time for a good old shindig.
So where did the spookiness element come from? To ward off the evil let loose at Samhain, huge bonfires were lit and people wore scary masks and disguises to confuse the spirits and the dead. Dressing your chihuahua as a hotdog may not have the same effect, but if that’s your thing… have a happy Halloween!