Now that I’m a parent, I’ve started to take more notice of seasonal feasts and festivals. All kids love celebrations. I loved them as a kid as well. Children care little about the symbology, folklore and history behind festivals and celebrations, they just enjoy the fun and decorations. But I believe that as a parent, I need to get more familiar with the history of the various festivals we celebrate throughout the year.
Each festival carries in its symbology the history and original purpose of that festival. Paying a closer attention to the symbols of each festival can teach us a lot about the origins of the festival and its significance in our lives.
Celebrating season festivals is also a subtle way to teach kids about the yearly cycle of nature and the intimate way we are dependent on this cycle.
Take for example Halloween. It wasn’t until recently that I started to think about the reasons why we carve pumpkins, dress in costumes, and go trick or treating for candy. Turns out all of these symbols have their beginning deep in time, to a time when people believed in, and worshiped, the power of nature.
So regardless of what Halloween has become, usurped by candy and costume sellers, it is a celebration about nature, and the eternal cycle of life and death that brings food to our table. As a modern society, we have become estranged from the land that produces our food. But even if we don’t recognize it, or celebrate it, we are still intimately dependent on nature, the seasons, and land for food.
Halloween is a prefect way to remind ourselves and our kids about the cycle of nature and its life-sustaining power.
Halloween has its roots deep in time. Its origins can be traced to the Celtic celebration of Samhain. And probably earlier to Greek and Roman celebration of nature goddesses. In its heart, Halloween is a celebration of the bounty of Autumn, and a preparation for the coming dark days of winter. The carved lanterns and scary masks were used to drive away evil sprits from homes and livestock, so that both people and animals could survive winter. Treats were a way to appease these dark forces and keep them away during the winter months when food was scarce.
If you are looking for a way to introduce your kids to the Celtic roots of Halloween, to teach them more about the meaning behind Halloween masks, costumes, decorations and treats, and to tie the modern Halloween celebrations to their ancient roots, I found a great books about the history of Halloween. Why We Celebrate Halloween: A Short History is an accessible way for young kids (ages 6-11, K-6) to understand the origin, history and meaning behind Halloween.