Back when I was in grade school, we lived in Makati, just outside Bel-Air Village, where we attended Colegio de Sta. Rosa. In Bel-Air, trick-or-treat was an annual activity where the children gathered together to have fun, wear their best Halloween costumes and go from house-to-house hoping to get sweets and other goodies. I don’t know if this still happens today, but my memories are quite vivid. Anyway, back then, I didn’t know what Halloween meant, or why we went around trick-or-treating. Today, I have a different picture of what Halloween and trick-or-treating really means.
There are countless stories as to when the celebration of Halloween really started. According to a blog I read, the earliest records go far, far back to the times of the ancient Celts, who took their residence in the British Isles. At that time, October 31st was the last day of the year (they followed the pagan calendar). It was a day reserved for celebrating and remembering many things: the start of winter, the end of summer and the memory of the deceased. Celtic priests honored the god of death on the 31st and all the way up to the 1st of November. The god of death was known as Samhain, who was known to control the dead’s spirits. The last day of October was therefore known as Samhain and the Celtics would build fires to ward off evil spirits. They also dressed themselves in scary costumes in the belief that this would also scare off the bad spirits. And since the end of October was the last day of the year, games were played to welcome the new year with good luck.
The story of how the tradition of trick-or-treat started is an altogether different matter. This ages old Halloween tradition actually traces its roots to England’s All Souls’ Day parades, where soul cakes were handed out to the poor in exchange for their promise of praying for the dead relatives of the family who gave them the pastries. Eventually, the Church encouraged people to distribute these soul cakes instead of the usual practice of leaving wine and food for the visiting spirits on Halloween. The distribution of soul cakes later became known as “going a-souling” and was soon taken up by children.
Today, not many know of these stories or legends. People mostly go out into the streets and party on Halloween night “just because”. Sometimes, the real essence of the celebration is masked by the different events that are organized: masquerade balls, Halloween disco parties, concerts and other similar events. Halloween has become too commercialized; but I’m not complaining. It’s fun. It brings people together. Somehow, it also brings back many beautiful memories with deceased loved ones. And the ghost stories! Oh, ghost stories abound before, during and after Hallow’s Eve!
I guess the true meaning of the Halloween season is inside our hearts; we each have a reason for celebrating it and for believing what we believe in. And after all the fun and excitement that Halloween brings, many of us go back to what really matters most: we visit our deceased relatives and pray for their eternal repose. We remember our dead and we keep their memories alive. This brings me to the conclusion that all the fun and partying on Hallow’s Eve is actually just our way of celebrating the life of our deceased relatives and friends. Yes, I think that’s how I want Halloween to mean for me.
Happy Halloween, everyone!
(For my fellow Kagay-anons, if you don’t have plans yet for the Halloween weekend, check out my previous post to get ideas on what to do. Have fun!)