In the Contributor’s Notes about his story The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever, author Daniel H. Wilson explains his use of a black hole, “In my mind, the black hole represents the terrible actuality of holding on forever. It violently demonstrates what we all know to be true in our hearts: we must always be letting go. Life itself is a long, slow letting go. Sad and beautiful.” His contention resonates with me. I have two teens.
There’s no time to contemplate sappy song lyrics about leaving (like Trace Adkins’ You’re Gonna Miss This) or others’ admonishments about time flying by when you are in the thick of child-rearing. I tried to be as mindful as a stay-at-home-mom raising kids in a foreign (Japan), far off (Maryland) and finally local land could be. Just as it seems I’ve had my head above water long enough to take a few deep breaths instead of simply trying to breathe, the kids are nearly grown, will likely fly the nest in the next few years. Another instance of letting go.
Last year, Halloween approached. Arrived. Departed. When the kids were little, the holiday brought excitement and anticipation: parties, costumes, traveling house to house collecting candy. Now that they are long beyond the age to trick or treat, it brings melancholy: Gone are the days of kids clothed in cute costumes, trips together to collect, carve and display pumpkins transformed into jack o’ lanterns. While mothers of youngsters continue the tradition, I put up the decorations, purchase the candy…and sigh.
USA Today provides some surprising financials, “Americans will spend more on treats, pumpkins and costumes this Halloween than they have in at least the last 11 years.¶The new poll from the National Retail Federation projects that Halloween revelers will spend $8.4 billion preparing for and celebrating the fall holiday. That breaks down to an average of $82.93 per shopper, vs. the $74.34 spent last Halloween…The lion’s share of spending will go towards costumes, with Americans doling out $3.1 billion on masks, and other garb. Another $2.5 billion will be spent on the treats that will fill trick or treaters’ bags. And shoppers will shell out $390 million for cards wishing friends and family a happy Halloween.”
According to history.com, All Hallows Evening’s roots are pagan, “It is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints’ Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a secular, community-based event characterized by child-friendly activities such as trick-or-treating. In a number of countries around the world, as the days grow shorter and the nights get colder, people continue to usher in the winter season with gatherings, costumes and sweet treats.”
Americans’ participation in the pagan-based holiday might seem inconsistent with peoples’ beliefs. A BBC article reports, “Pew Research Center found that 71% of Americans identified as Christian in 2014 – down from 78% in 2007,” and, “The United States still remains home to more Christians than any other nation, with roughly seven-in-ten continuing to identify with some branch of Christianity.” How might a source on religion, say the Christian Broadcasting Network, answer the question, “Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?”¶”Halloween is a real, sacred day for those who follow Wicca. In fact, it is one of two high and holy days for them. The Celtic belief of spirits being released is current, along with the worship of Samhain (the lord of death) – both are promoted as something to embrace on that day. There is no question in my mind that to those who believe and follow the practices of witchcraft, Halloween represents an opportunity to embrace the evil, devilish, dark side of the spiritual world. ¶So after discovering this, what is a reasonable conclusion? As Christians you and I are placed in this world to be a light in a world of darkness. There is no lasting benefit to ignore a holiday that exists around us, but it also does harm to celebrate Halloween as it has originated and grown over the centuries.” Americans’ interest in Halloween is cultural rather than religious.
I think Americans’ interest in Halloween is cultural rather than religious, which is probably why so few seem bothered by its pagan roots.
Last year, I stopped by the place my family had gone for years to find the perfect pumpkin, Dugualla Bay Farms in Oak Harbor. I watched as a father tried, somewhat successfully, to coax his daughter into sitting atop a pumpkin long even for him to capture the moment with his camera while a young brunette with a baby strapped to her chest dragged a rusted orange wheelbarrow out to the pumpkin patch. I set out solo. Row upon row of mostly orange, but also white pumpkins lay in wait. Growlers screamed overhead, compelling tourists to stop and gawk. After half an hour of wandering the fields, I chose two from one of the several places with lines of pre-picked pumpkins, weighed, paid, returned home and placed them on the porch…uncarved.
This year, I returned and did same. In the rain and with an added sense of sadness. According to a WNT Article, Dugualla Bay Farms will close down for good after Halloween. The place where my children and I regularly picked strawberries in early summer, ate enormous ice cream cones and collected pumpkins in the fall will be no more. Waiting at the counter to pay for pumpkins, the cashier greeted me,
“You’re braving the rain to come in today.”
“I’ll miss you guys (sniffle),” I said.
I acknowledge Daniel H. Wilson’s contention, “Life itself is a long, slow letting go,” as a truth, while wishing it weren’t so.