Listening to the slamming Alex Jordan Show. The question of Halloween came up this morning. Salt queries Halloween’s relevance to Barbados. What’s it all about? Alex wonders though, what’s wrong with harmless fun. I am with Salt on this one. As Alex would say, “No, but seriously”.
Rituals are shared cross-culturally and much of what we celebrate, say, Christmas (my most favourite time of the year), carnival, Easter, Divali are imports. But then we, Caribbean people, for the most part are imports and so are many things that follow from that culturally.
It is one thing to be born into a received culture, another to go actively looking to import someone else’s. Yes, our culture should be dynamic, open to influences, from inside and outside. Cultural expressions ought not to be stuck in time, but reimagined, kept alive because they symbolise our idiosyncracies. And I would rather too that these rituals have meaning. And I do not mean only serious, political meaning. But fun meanings too.
There is nothing, nothing remotely organic about halloween in the Caribbean. Christmas is connected to people’s beliefs about Jesus Christ. Divali and pagwa connect to Hinduism. But halloween is not related to anything, other than what people see on TV. And for that, halloween in the Caribbean is, in the most literal sense of the word, pretentious.
According to Wikipedia, hallowe’en is linked to the celtic festival of Samhain, (translated as ‘summer’s end) a celebration of the end of the “lighter half” of the year and beginning of the “darker half”. The name comes from All Hallows day, 1 November, the beginning of that period in temperate northern countries, that is.
We have the benefit of no darker half of a year, living in sweet, glorious sunlight and breezes. If anything, November to March is absolutely the best period of the year- our lighter end. Think of the quality of the light, the luminescence of the sky, the cool, wafting winds.
We can try to authenticate or indigenise the halloween experience with costumes of soucouyant, la diablesse, lagahoo, steel donkey or duen… whatever. But we have carnival for costuming already. Ain’t?