Kage Baker, as I have noted often before, loved Halloween.
When I was 18 and had the very first surgery to try and correct my kidney, I was in hospital at this same time of year. The place was decorated all over, especially as it was a children’s hospital; a lot of what Kage sneaked in to me was Halloween candy. I can’t say much in favour of those teeny little cheating “fun-size” chocolate bars, but they are easier to hide as contraband.
Halloween that year, I was home but not allowed to go out. By age 18, I was mostly playing guardian for littler kids, but I still got to dress and run around: so I was bummed to be grounded. Kage took smaller siblings out in the sycamore-haunted Hollywood Hills; Kimberly and others of our friends went Pumpkin Caroling at the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital … I stayed in and handed out candy.
With luck I’ll be home in time for Halloween this year, too. I’ve quite run out of small children to escort (kept that up until I was 40, though!) so I will be delighted this year to stay in and watch the parade on the front porch. Kage was happy to do that in her last year; then I drove her down to the sea to see the black waves come in glowing green from a red tide. Kage clapped and hoped for zombie pirates: she really, really loved Halloween.
Most sane people do, I think, once exposed to it. I’ve known lots of recently-acquired Americans, who are even goofier over that particular holiday than those of us who grew up with it. Grown-ups, in particular, are thrilled by dressing up and running around in the dark eating candy. Halloween is now celebrated in some form over most of the industrial world – Europe, certainly, where Christian and Celtic backgrounds abound; but also in China, Japan, the Philippines. Australia and New Zealand and South America. And this is in addition to whatever native harvest or Day of the Dead celebrations may also be observed. People like Halloween.
Unless you are some variety of fundamentalist, I guess. Some fundie Christians think it’s demonic, sadly; and here in Los Angeles the Hispanic fundamentalists go so far as to tell their kids it’s Satan’s birthday. (It’s not. In the mainstream Christian canon, Satan doesn’t get a birthday.) I can’t believe fundamentalist Islam looks kindly on it, either, as they seem to be against most fun in general. And I’ve actually been scolded by some fundie pagans for “trivializing” Samhain with Halloween decorations
But there was a Buddhist temple in Hollywood that used to gleefully give out candy to trick-or-treaters, and I’ve known even Orthodox Jews who take their kids out as long as Halloween doesn’t fall on the Sabbath. There’s All Hallows, and there’s Dia de Muerto, and there’s the various permutations of Samhain proper – it’s the source and original of Halloween, after all, but Halloween now is something else entirely, something just as universal and a lot sweeter. Some of the neopagans get weirdly grim and proprietary about the festival – I think evolving an organized religion might be bad for you at some level …
What is celebrated all over the world now is a refreshingly secular holiday. Dress up! Run around in the dark, and make it safe and comfortable for at least one night of the year! Beg for – and give out generously – sweets! Light lamps in the night to spread warmth and cheer!
That was what Kage most especially loved. For her, it was the start of the winter season. And when you know it’s gonna get cold and dark for the next several months, there’s all the more reason to string coloured lights in the windows and give smiles and goodies to strangers.
And if, when all the Jack O’lanterns have burned down and filled the late air with the incense of guttered candles and singed pumpkin – if, when you’re sitting in the quiet dark living room with a couple of candles and the last bowl of candy – if, when the laughter in the streets has fallen silent – if, then, you go pour out a little salt and grain and wine on your threshold: well, that sacred moment will not be diminished by the procession of masked and giggling children at your door.