By Leon Suseran
More and more sections of the Guyanese society are embracing the festival of Halloween which is celebrated on October 31 every year in Europe and North America. Through the advent of television more and more of the American culture has invaded Guyana. Halloween is one of them.
The great Protestant Reformation is also celebrated on October 31, when German priest, Martin Luther, renounced the Catholic church of the day and spoke out against various abuses within the church.
He was later excommunicated which gave way to the formation of the hundreds of branches of Christian churches with which we are too familiar today, including the Lutheran church.
But let us get back to Halloween. There are numerous Halloween parties; costumes of all description and variety on sale; scary movies being aired on the television; and business places preparing for the festival by dressing up their surroundings to suit the occasion.
Halloween is celebrated just before All Souls’ Day (November 1), a Christian feast that remembers the souls that have been buried. The name, therefore, All Hallow’s Eve, later became ‘Halloween’.
While the origin of this holiday encompasses Roman, Celtic and even Paganism backgrounds, Halloween has enveloped into one of the largest celebrations around the world, just very near to Christmas in terms of preparation, financial sales and participation of people.
It has become a family celebration like how Thanksgiving (which is celebrated during these times of the year) has become over time. And like any American custom or celebration, it has seeped into our Guyanese tradition, and becomes more and more visibly present each year.
This year, for the first time, Berbice’s oldest photo studio, Dave’s Portrait Studio in New Amsterdam will be offering patrons a chance to have their photos taken with various scary creatures against a wide array of Halloween backdrops.
Many view Halloween as one day (or night) in a person’s life when they can put on a costume and be someone who they are not (but who they long to be or portray) and get away with it, really. Basically, adults get excited because they can be someone who they are not, but who they long to be.
They can practice traits of that person and others can say nothing about it or them because it is, yes, Halloween. And it is not only horror movie characters that people portray. It can be ancient movie characters, famous people in history, and the like.
Halloween is a holiday that brings to life, so to speak, zombies [‘jumbie’ in Guyanese parlance]; goblins, witches, and all the scary creatures that are believed to be on the prowl at night. Adults and children portray their favourite Halloween characters and go about ‘trick-or-treating’ which has become a familiar practice during Halloween night. As the holiday progressed over the decades, newer symbols and elements began to appear, such as the Halloween pumpkin, known as the Jack-o-Lantern, Halloween games and foods, haunted attractions/houses, telling ghost stories among others.
Hollywood has capitalized on the holiday, too, by expanding the popular horror genre of movies through the years. An ordinary film writer in the late 70’s even went as far as to quickly put together a low budget film named after the holiday, and based all of the film’s contents on what took place on one Halloween night. That film, ‘Halloween’, was dubbed one of the greatest horror movies of all time and became one of the most successful movie franchises in the world.
Halloween is a children’s holiday. Thousands of children on Halloween night will go around homes and beg for candies. They would, of course, be donned in their favourite Halloween costumes.
‘Trick-or-treat for UNICEF’ has been ongoing in North America since 1950. Children go around with small boxes while trick-or-treating on Halloween night and solicit small change and donations from the houses they visit. The programme has collected more than $118M for UNICEF since it began.
When one looks closely at the celebration of Halloween, one sees the escape from reality to become something one’s inner self desires. Given the daily grind and pressures of life, it may actually be a healthy thing to step out of oneself, even if it is just for a night. And the children and their families get to have fun too.
This can play a significant role in strengthening the family ties especially in a society where the ties are weak and loosening.
And to those skeptics out there, there is nothing harmful about the Halloween holiday; neither does it hold anything negative for children or adults. There is nothing anti- religious about it as well, since no religious organization has come out against its celebration nor has it gone against any religious text or belief. It is just plain, harmless fun.
Happy Halloween to all!
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