Georgina Guedes

Happy Halloween

2012-11-01 18:01

Georgina Guedes

This year, Halloween was so nice, we celebrated it twice. Over the weekend, our residents’ association organised a street picnic and trick-or-treating at designated, cobweb-adorned houses in our suburb. And last night we joined up with a group of our friends at the massive Parkview Halloween festival in the George Hay Park.

Everyone got into the spirit of things by wearing fancy costumes and putting on a good show for the local kids. My children enjoyed themselves thoroughly - owing in equal measure to the fancy dress and sweets, and not one but three churning jumping castles in the park.

At our local event, I heard some comments from one of the other mums about a friend of hers who refused to participate in Halloween because it’s a pagan festival. I also read an article the week before by a mother who feels the same way.

I was surprised by these viewpoints, because as far as I can tell, Halloween is only celebrated as a bit of fun for the kids - and even though it has its pagan roots, no one’s really worshiping a pagan god or renouncing their own religion by knocking on their neighbour’s doors dressed as a pumpkin and demanding sweets.

In fact, some pagans I know are quite offended by the commercial nonsense of how the Americans - and now South Africans too - celebrate what they consider to be an important event in their religious calendar.

Those who feel that it’s somehow wrong to be celebrating a pagan festival should also abstain from buying Easter eggs and maintaining the myth of the Easter bunny, because those rituals have pagan roots.

And as for sending Christmas cards featuring Santa dressed in red with white trim - that tradition has its roots in a Coca-Cola advertising campaign. And Father Christmas himself is a characterisation of a saint - a religious figure that non-Catholic religions don’t recognise.

I’m not saying that the religious among us should throw up their hands and admit defeat, but I do think that there’s no harm in letting children run riot in the neighbourhood streets dressed up as ghouls and witches. This is far removed from any form of pagan worship.

In fact, what I found particularly cheering about the two Halloween shindigs I attended was that it’s so unrelated to any religion that it unifies a wide range of cultures. My trick-or-treating daughter, bedecked in velvet pointed hat and witch’s bodice, ran helter-skelter down our streets shoulder-to-shoulder with Muslim, Christian, Jewish, black, brown and white neighbours.

And because no parent in modern South Africa would let their little ones roam freely in the streets, the parents were out in force. I found the whole experience built community spirit and broke down barriers. I was delighted to let my children join in the fun, and I certainly will be doing so next year as well.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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