Volume 94, Issue 34

Tuesday, October 31, 2000


Halloween the Original: The start of the new year

Halloween, the Sequel: the night for the young at heart

Halloween, the Sequel: the night for the young at heart

By Leena Kamat and Jill Shaw
Gazette Staff

The religious origins of Halloween are rarely seen and practiced anymore as the current traditions associated with the holiday have drifted into a more commercial celebration.

Halloween is no longer widely celebrated by pagans, Celtics, Christians and other religions. Honouring one's ancestors and the dead are not the focus on Oct. 31. Instead, today Halloween is synonymous with trick-or-treating, candy, costumes, make-up and little orange UNICEF boxes.

Halloween has become more organized, said David MacGregor, chair of the department of sociology at King's College.

"More companies are involved in making outfits and candies. Commercialization could be seen as a plot of a big corporation," MacGregor said.

"I think Halloween has separated itself from its original nature," said Lija Bickis, a fourth-year environmental life sciences student at Queen's University and the president of the Pagan Society of Queen's.

Halloween may not be what it used to be, but that does not bother Bickis. She enjoys dressing up for Halloween and she performs some of the ancient practices of the holiday. The Pagan Society has a Halloween dinner where they remember those who have died in the past year and extra plates are set for departed loved ones, Bickis explained.

"It's neat when you can be somebody different from yourself by dressing up. You can be free", she said. "From what I know, most of my pagan friends are dressing up."

Bickis said some pagans are disappointed with the negative perception the general public has over the pagan religion and the meaning of Halloween.

Etaine Cerridwen, founder of The Enchanted Sage Grove in Oakville, said, "[Halloween is] fun. I think too many Witches, Wiccans [and] Pagans are uptight about their worry over the 'true' representation of witches and witchcraft."

The general non-pagan population needs to be more educated about the original holiday to avoid insensitive remarks, she said. "I try to educate people, but I won't deflate someone's fun over political correctness of witches."

Rose McCulloch, co-owner of McCulloch's Costume and Party Supplies in London, said Halloween is one of the busiest times of the year with a definite increase in sales.

"Traditional costumes are always strong, but also the theatre and movies influence what's popular," she said. According to McCulloch, costumes from the spoof horror thriller Scary Movie are popular, as well as costumes from Austin Powers, X-men and Harry Potter. From television, shows such as the Teletubbies have influenced costume choices, especially among children.

Jackie Burt, manager of the IT Store at Masonville Place, said the store's sales increase prior to Halloween. The store starts to put out costumes in mid-September, but the busiest time is the week and weekend before Halloween, she said.

The most popular items sold around Halloween are masks and wigs. "Traditional costumes like witches, ghouls and the grim reaper are popular," Burt said. "Also, we do fancier outfits to suit a younger audience."

She said she felt Halloween has become commercialized. "I think it has [become] just like Christmas – very commercialized."

Burt attributed the commercialization of this once religious festival to the dictates of business. "Everyone gets into things if they want to make money," she said.

The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund is another organization that has become as much a part of Halloween as candy. The custom of collecting money for children around the world began in 1950, when trick-or-treaters began to collect money for the needy children of the world, said Marg Noble, office manager of the UNICEF regional office in London.

Five years later, UNICEF became a part of Canadian Halloween tradition, raising $15,000 that year. Since 1955, Noble said UNICEF has raised $72 million and they are looking to contribute to these funds with a goal of $4 million for this year.

According to Noble, today 60 per cent of schools in London take part in the annual fundraiser. "We depend heavily on the school system," she said, adding close to two million Canadian children collect money for UNICEF on Halloween night.

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Copyright The Gazette 2000