No trick — just a treat |

No trick — just a treat

Autumn approaches and candy is filling our store shelves. Is it a result of something with deeper meaning than a “dental conspiracy” drenched in sugar? October can be a month of conflicted thoughts for many — what I speak of is Halloween.

Should it be celebrated? Avoided? For some it’s easy to choose one way or the other because of widespread acceptance in our culture. It seems harmless enough, right? I don’t want to make a decision for you. I just want to share some of what I’ve learned regarding it’s origins for you to ponder:

Halloween has roots in a Celtic festival, a celebration of the end of the “lighter half” of the year and beginning of the “darker half.” Ancient Celts believed the border between this world and the “Otherworld” became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. Family ancestors were honored and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off. It’s believed that this led to the wearing of costumes and masks to disguise oneself to confuse spirits and thus avoid harm.

The celebration of Halloween is an old tradition in Scotland and Ireland where people costumed themselves and carried lanterns carved from turnips or cut them with faces and placed them in windows to ward off evil spirits. People put out food for spirits and that practice turned into a more beneficial giving of food to beggars.

It’s more than obvious to see how these customs have had an influence on our modern culture. Rather than turnips, pumpkins are associated with Halloween in North America where they are readily available and much easier to carve. In case you’ve ever wondered about the story behind the carved “Jack-o-lantern” — here you go: It was said in Irish folklore there use to be a shrewd but lazy farmer “affectionately” known as Stingy Jack. Well Jack was able to trap the Devil (how is debated) and would only release him by getting him to promise to never take his soul. Anyhow, later in life Jack eventually died. His life of unrepentant thievery was too sinful for him to go to Heaven and because the Devil had promised to never take his soul Satan told Jack there was no place for him in Hell, either. Doomed to wander around in darkness, Jack asked the Devil how he’d see with no light. Holding a grudge, the Devil mockingly tossed him a never extinguishing coal from the fires of Hell. Jack’s favorite food was Turnip, so he carved one out and placed the ember in it as a lamp; a “Jack-o-lantern”.

Halloween often has themes of death, the occult, evil, magic or mythical monsters. Traditional characters include ghosts, witches, skeletons, vampires, werewolves, demons, bats and black cats. Telling ghost stories and viewing scary movies are common happenings at Halloween parties. Halloween episodes of television series and horror movies are commonly aired or released on or before the holiday to take advantage of the atmosphere.

Trick-or-treating is a customary activity for children on Halloween. Going in costume from house to house, asking for treats such as candy, with the question, “Trick or treat?” The word “trick” refers to a mostly not intended “threat” to perform mischief on the homeowners or their property if no treat is given.

Some feel concern about Halloween, and reject the holiday because they feel it trivializes — or celebrates paganism, the occult, or other practices incompatible with their beliefs and faith because of its origin as a pagan festival.

It is up to you to make your own decision regarding this, alternatives can be found in theme and celebration. If your seeking a more benign way of letting your kids have fun while letting them indulge their sweet tooth, maybe shun the “darker” side of the season by encouraging less monsters, ghosts, vampires, devils & witches and encouraging more super-heroes, cute animals, angels, princesses and such. Everyone loves a teddy bear or a Ladybug, am I right? Less questionable alternatives can readily be found and they’ll both result in candy — but I’ll let you discern your own intentions and decide for yourselves. Discover information and be cautious in your support. Enjoy a fall festival or event with a positive intention and be safe.

What I find an interesting perspective on this whole thing is what adds to balance and reinforces my personal beliefs; it’s based on a law of physics (Isaac Newton): “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. My simple vernacular is “you can’t have one without the other”. We know what “dark” is because of “light”, we know what “black” is because of “white”, we know “wrong” because of “right” — and because of the devil we can know God.

Anthony Rabak lives in Alta Sierra.

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