By Michael O’Morrow
There was a time when Halloween was about tradition.. The history of Halloween dates over 2000 years ago when it was first celebrated by the Celtic people. The Celts believed that on Oct. 31st of every year, the barrier between the real world and the after world blurred, and the ghosts of the dead returned to Earth. Living people and spirits would walk together. Afraid of the ghosts, people would dress in masks and costumes to disguise themselves to avoid harm. Families would leave baskets of food outside their homes to appease the spirits and send them away.
As the Romans conquered Europe and Christianity spread, people began to recognize and celebrate All Saints Day, a Catholic holiday to remember the dead. October 31st became All Hallows Eve, and eventually was contracted to Halloween.
Halloween first appeared in North America following the Irish potato famine in 1846. Many Irish immigrated to North America, bringing along their customs and traditions. Halloween became a North American holiday, with a focus on entertainment and community.
Many of us today do not know the history of Halloween. So why are we still celebrating it? The significance of the holiday is no longer the same. We no longer remember our dead on Halloween or celebrate community. Halloween has become another corporate juggernaut, fueled by candy companies, party planners and costume designers. Halloween bears no significance on our lives. There are other corporate holidays – Valentine’s Day, Mother’s and Father’s Day for example – but at least they have a good intention. Halloween has become nothing more than an opportunity for North Americans to indulge in excess and gluttony.
As our population ages and obesity rates increase, the annual health care costs associated with diabetes in Canada is expected to surpass $8 billion by 2016.
The National Retail Association in the United States reported that in 2008, Americans spent over $5.77 billion on Halloween items.
As a result of rising food prices, the World Bank estimates that in 2009, 100 million more people will fall into poverty.
The World Food Program, a branch of the United Nations, estimates that an annual increase in funding of $3 billion would provide school feeding daily to every poor child.
We need to change our priorities. There was a time when Halloween had a cause, a reason for being on the calendar. It served a purpose for those people who celebrated it. It’s only purpose today is for a quick sugar fix and to promote our kids getting fat.
On Halloween do the right thing and spend your money on healthy food for kids. Better yet, send your money to those people who really need it.