When the Days Seem Darker
In October the evenings suddenly seem darker, the daylight comes later and the morning dew on the grass turns to frost; winter is approaching. We are once again reminded that our lives are not separate from the movements of the stars and planets. In ancient times human beings felt themselves directly connected with the celestial movements as well as deeply attuned to the rhythms of birth and death. They marked these changes of seasons and life rhythms with festivals of reverence and celebration.
The remnants of one of these festivals can be found in Halloween as it is celebrated today. This ancient festival, which originated with the early Celtic peoples, was celebrated on November 1 as a festival for the Celtic sun god. This New Year’s Day honored the sun and marked the beginning of winter. The sun, as ripener of the grain, was thanked for the harvest and offered strength for the coming battle with cold and dark. In anticipation of the coming darkness, bonfires were lit. These Celtic peoples believed that the souls of the departed were drawn by the fire to the warmth and light they remembered from former lives. They thought that all manner of ghosts, fairies, and hobgoblins walked abroad at this time of year. They believed that the fires would protect the people as well as appease the mischievous spirits. Thus, the festival was also celebrated to honor Samhain, the Lord of the Dead.
In later centuries this festival was recognized by the medieval European church and continued to be celebrated in honor of the transition from autumn to winter and to birth and death. The respect for and fear of the supernatural/invisible and of death remained strong. The people anticipated that ghosts, witches, and magic would abound on the night of October 31-November 1. They believed that disguising themselves as somebody else would protect them and their homes from any evil spirits that would come. It was also an evening to predict the future as it was believed the intuitive forces were very strong on that night.
In the north of England, a bowl of porridge was set outside the door to appease any visiting spirits. To frighten away witches the people carved faces on hollowed out turnips and placed candles inside. Even though today fear has subsided, the elements of the festival have remained in playful fashion with dressing up, apple bobbing, and fortune telling with apple seeds and nuts. And of course, turning pumpkins into Jack-o-Lanterns and handing out treats to any visitors who come to your door on Halloween night.
Celebrating Halloween with Elementary School Children
Halloween costumes don’t need to be from mainstream or media-driven characters. At High Mowing School, we support creation of a costume that arises out of the imagination and that is in harmony with our Waldorf school culture. Adults and children alike can have a good deal of fun with the creative process of costuming as well as enjoying Halloween day.
There are many inventive ways to create props and elements that enhance a costume, but knowing that this can be difficult, there are some accents that often need to be purchased. The local thrift stores are already filled with the creative hum of people searching for costume pieces! Flannel shirts, old pants and boots, floppy hats and straw provide the makings for a scarecrow. A wooden sword, cardboard and aluminum foil shield, and helmet are the foundational pieces for a knight.
Awaken this creative process through conversations with your child about current or past curriculum themes. Your planning conversations can help your child reflect upon characters from
- Books long ago or current literature
- Historical characters (Einstein, Cleopatra)
- Curriculum inspired costumes (fairy tale characters, animals or saints, Old Testament characters, Norse gods, Greek or medieval costumes, explorers, etc.)
- Village tradespeople (baker, blacksmith)
- Real people at work (postman or woman, train conductor)
- Mythical creatures
- Even common objects can take on a living presence through costuming
Enjoy the process — and happy Halloween!
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