November 5, 2015

GUEST BLOG | Virgins and Ghosts!

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They say you never forget your first! My experience consisted of waiting in the cold for an hour to get into a Haunted House (shout out to the guy in the line dressed up as the Fox News Reporter: you know, the one who had a lot of nasty stuff to say about Cornell the other day), theatrical make-up, masks, lots of laughter and very few worries about prelims. Though if the Haunted House had prelims, grades and finals jumping out at me, I would have found it a lot scarier!

“Trick or Treat!” was an expression I’ve only heard in movies. For some international students, we are Hallo-gins, or Halloween Virgins. This Saturday was my first Halloween. Ever. I’m from Zimbabwe, a conservative, predominantly Pentecostal Christian country. Halloween is viewed as a great “evil” and why anyone would dedicate a whole day to “ungodly creatures of the dark” is beyond most Zimbabweans’ scopes. The idea of celebrating ghosts and spirits seems like asking for trouble! I’m not very religious or superstitious myself so I didn’t really have an opinion about Halloween except what I got from American TV shows — an excuse for people to put together the quirkiest outfits, get drunk, munch on free candy and pop out from behind trees in the dark. Seeing as I was wholly ignorant on the subject, I decided to learn more about the origins of Halloween. Like any other 21st century kid I turned to Google to educate me.

“Straddling the line between fall and winter, plenty and paucity, life and death, Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition. It is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints’ Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a secular, community-based event characterized by child-friendly activities such as trick-or-treating. In a number of countries around the world, as the days grow shorter and the nights get colder, people continue to usher in the winter season with gatherings, costumes and sweet treats.”

After reading this, I began to realize that Halloween is not at all evil or stupid. Far from it: it’s a community-orientated holiday filled with good-spirit. On the 31st I noticed a change in the atmosphere. A mischievous excitement pervaded the air. Seeing people in their creative attires and little kids carrying jack-o-lanterns I realized Halloween is sort of an eccentric Christmas in that it too has strayed from its original purpose and turned more into a family event. I think Halloween is a wonderful community-building event in a world spent increasingly on the move and on our phones.

So how was my first, you may ask? Well, awkward at the start, but I warmed up to it and it turned out to be an unforgettable experience.