For a long time now, the "dilemma" of celebrating or not Halloween has been in the minds of a lot of Mexicans. "It's not part of our culture", some say, others even think that it has to do with a satanic thing (we can thank that to some catholic priests). For me, it has more to do with the fact that a lot of people ignore the origins and meaning of this interesting holiday.
Before I continue, I must tell you that I am a big fan of the Day of the Dead - it is my favorite holiday, as a matter of fact - and I wouldn't trade it, but I also think that the formerly known as "Al Hallows Eve" has its own charm.
So, Halloween has its origins around 2500 years ago in the north of England and Ireland, where the Celts used to celebrate their New Year in the end of October. This was very important to them because it was the ending of the harvest and the beginning of the dark cold winter - which was associated with death, of course, no surprise there -. Superstitious as they were, they believed that this day the barrier between the world of the living and the dead became blurred, and that this could make it easier to do predictions that would help them survive the so feared winter. So the Druids, their priests, used to make big bonfires dressed with animal heads and skins in order to do the predictions. This ritual was called Samhain.
Many years later, when Christianity wanted to erase all pagan acts, Pope Gregory III decided to expand the Day of All Martyrs (that took place on May) and create the Day of All Saints, which he intelligently moved to the same date as Samhain. From then on, November 1st was declared All Saints Day, or All Hallows Eve, which eventually became Halloween.
There you have it!! Religious syncretism once more!!
Contrary to what many Mexicans believe, this is not truly a tradition from the U.S. (not really). Actually, it wasn’t celebrated in America before 1850, when the big Irish migration occurred. Of course, it became popular in the entire continent after the big Hollywood movies were shown everywhere.
What exactly made Halloween a holiday about candy, costumes and spooky parties, so different from our tradition? I’m really not sure, but if you ask me, the origins are not far from the origins of the Day of the Death. For instance, at least we all celebrate November 1st as the Day of All Saints, same as all the other Catholic countries like France (La Toussaint) or Italy (Ognissanti). Also, they both originate thanks to religion, and they both have to do with the spiritual world.
I don’t know why some Mexicans have this aversion to Halloween, but I do believe that there is nothing wrong in having both holidays as long as we know where they come from, why do we celebrate them, the importance of each in our cultures and, more important, as long as we don’t confuse and mix them.
That is my opinion, I just think both Day of the Dead and Halloween are really awesome.