Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Blended Holidays: A Hippy Halloween

October is going way too fast!  In just a couple weeks it will be over, and Halloween will already be here.  Ever since I can remember, Halloween has been my favorite holiday.  It makes sense - it falls during my favorite time of year, and it involves frolicking outside, fantasy and whimsy, and lots of sugar.  Most importantly, Halloween was the day when playing pretend was about to Get Real and everybody was into it.

I was all about pretend-time as a kid.  I did not spend very much time being myself.  I was a cool animal, a magical pony, a Disney princess, a sailor senshi.  I wore my Halloween costumes all year round.  In retrospect, not a lot has changed.

I swear, this was not staged. I didn't notice it until 2 years after the later picture!

A lot of Pagan-types go through a goth phase in their youth; I was not one of them.  I considered acceptable decorations to be pumpkins and scarecrows, witches and black cats, but no ugly monsters or creepy stuff.  I was never into the macabre, but at the same time I always loved the festivity of "dark" holidays like Halloween and the Day of the Dead.  I'm also the weirdo who loves dark, rainy days and cold weather in a totally non-emo way.  I love celebrating beauty where it is not commonly celebrated.  And I love celebrating the dark side of the year.

As the Wheel of the Year and the cycles of Nature are analogous to the cycle of life, death and rebirth, this is the "death" time.  The last blooms are ending, leaves will soon fall from the trees, cold winds are sweeping through and winter is on its way.  But if you look at autumn as death, it comes with such a beautiful final burst of life!  The warm colors of falling leaves, the bounty of the fall harvest, (and for those of us who are air-conditioning bound during the long hot summer, the freedom to get outside without getting sweaty!)  I'm happy that modern culture still packs holidays into this season, because there's so much to celebrate.

I'm not a big practitioner of formal ritual.  That's not to say I don't enjoy it from time to time, but more often I take a more pragmatic approach and focus on the greater significance of the simple things.  It should come as no surprise that I consider cooking to be a big magical, spiritual practice.  Taking elements of the bounty of nature, transforming them through love and care and fire, and sharing nourishment and joy with friends and family is the most ancient human ritual, common to all cultures and creeds throughout history.  It's a sacred tradition everyone can take part in any day of the year.  (And as a bonus when I say bagged Lipton tea and Betty Crocker cake mixes are against my religion it's kind of true.)

Anyone who thinks Pagan holidays aren't alive and well should take another look at Halloween, Christmas and Easter.  I don't even remember too well the tenuous connection between Halloween and Christianity (All Souls Day is around there, right?)  Just look at what they're putting out in the aisles of Target - pumpkins and Indian corn, or holly and ivy, or bunnies and eggs.  All symbols of the season and the changes in the natural world.  That's what I consider to be pretty great about "commercial" holidays - they are, intentionally or otherwise, very inclusive!

And that's what's so great about Nature as the uniting theme between religions.  No matter what your personal view of god, unless you are a full-on Crucible type Puritan who thinks the devil lives in the woods and fresh air will kill you, you've pretty much got to consider this sweet Earth situation we have as a big gift from the almighty.  And if you're an atheist, it's equally wonderful.  Celebrating the seasons is something just about everyone can get behind, and get together to do.

And that's what holidays should be all about - togetherness and celebration, no matter what your personal views.  I'll take any excuse for a party.  I grew up celebrating Christmas, and I'm certainly not about to stop.  For me it was never about religion anyway, it was about family, festivity and my completely sincere belief in magic.  For the past few years I've been able to get away during the day of the Solstice and take a silent, solitary walk through the woods, watching the gold light slant through the bare branches, listening to the soft sounds of the wind and what scurrying things were still active, and taking trimmings from holly bushes and pine branches and gathering pine cones from the ground, which I would make a centerpiece out of that night for our Yuletide meal.  For me the Winter Solstice is about quietly, meditatively experiencing beauty of nature.  Then, a few days later, Christmas comes with all the gifts and food and family get-togethers- a much more riotous, feast-filled holiday.  And they are both fantastic!

When it comes to Halloween/Samhain, I have to get both into one day.  Sometimes I just get the costume party, and sometimes I just get the nature walk.  But it's always a day that has that special energy and excitement that I remember from my childhood, that sense that fantasy and real life are coming together, that the world of spirits and magic is rubbing shoulders with the world of the everyday.  My friend Kitt, aka Hippy Druid Chick, and I have co-hosted some fantastic parties.

our somewhat makeshift Who Halloween

Three years ago one of my best friends got married on Halloween, and there was not only a wonderful celebration, but because she too had the excellent taste to have her reception in a tent by the woods, I was able to duck out and take a walk in the dark, under the trees and the enormous moon, and it was pure magic.

This year, I think my Halloween festivities will be had at the Ren Faire, as I haven't been able to fit in a visit yet and it has to be this weekend or the next!  And I'll squeeze in as many Halloween recipes as I can before the big day.

And please share your Halloween traditions!  Because you know I'm always shopping for more :)

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