This old festival forms the basis for the Christian festival of All Hallows Eve (Halloween) with the first day of November becoming All Hallows (all saints day) Both of them are concerned with the soul of those who have died.
Whether you participate in the Christian or the Pagan festival it is clear both are concerned with life, death and the possibility and, for some, the certainty of an afterlife. It is a time for spiritual reflection as well celebration. To think about those who have died in this context is to think of the physical body as just that, a shell. The person who inhabited that now discarded shell still lives on. How, why and where, provide much 'soul' searching and not a few discussions round the bonfires. It is clear then that both festivals have a serious dimension and purpose.
However, there is another type of Halloween festival which has been developing over a couple of decades in The UK at least. As people lose religion and any notion of spirituality they once had, I have noticed a steady rise in blatant commercialisation of the festivals. Clearly people without religion seem still to need some meaning in life.There is a gap where religion used to be, one which is being filled by the corporate money-grabbers. At a trip to the supermarket last week promotion of Halloween was already under-way. Shelves stacked high with toys and costumes directed mostly at children of course. On Halloween itself I have seen hoards of children being led, snake like by their parents around the streets. The only concern of the children, because it is the only thing they have been taught to think about- is how much can I get in my goody bag. So,what bothers me about it is, they probably don't know anything about the festivals. They're just dressed up, taken round the streets and encouraged to get as much free stuff as they can.
Some people might say it's just a bit of silliness, or it's a free country and all that. Yes, that may be. However, I can't help but think this corporate rather than spiritual Halloween, is just further evidence of the society we are bequeathing to our offspring; shallow, greedy and empty.
I wonder how the ancestors feel.