Slug: Halloween Fatimah Badawy
CAIRO, Egypt, Nov 10th – Another scream emanates from the child’s mouth and this time the neighbors most likely heard. He stomps his feet and commands, “I need my batman costume, now!” His mother sways back and forth ambivalently trying to calm her son down, but it’s useless – she has to go out right now and get him that costume before the entire house virtually explodes.
Halloween season means dress-up season – especially for the little ones, but how much dressing-up can one child need on one day of the entire year?
Schools in Egypt with the American system as their main curriculum have sent out invitations to all families inviting their children to dress as their favorite characters and prepare for a ‘Happy Halloween’ day at school, a student at the American International School of Egypt said.
But this invitation didn’t bode too well with the kids that insisted on participating.
“It’s all just a waste of time,” a mother of a five-year-old said. She described how last year all he wanted was to be Ben-10 for Halloween, but this year it was Batman. The mother sighs as she speaks of waiting for what he will want to be next year.
Families struggling with other finances are forced into following through with participating in Halloween this year, with children having temper tantrums if these commands aren’t fulfilled.
“It’s funny how my parents have to make space for costumes now, that’s how big the schools have made Halloween,” one of the sisters of a child attending NIS said.
The American system schools give students a day off from any studying and allow them to participate in activities like reading ghost stories in English class, or having pumpkin crafts in Art class.
Despite Halloween being adopted by these schools today as a secular, community-based event today with child-friendly activities, its origins were indeed quite different. The night of Halloween in pre-Roman times marked the end of summer and the start of the dark and cold winter, which at that time was a time of year that was associated with lots of human death. The night was named All Hallows’ Eve.
On that night, which was the night before the new year 2,000 years ago, the Celts believed that the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred, and that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. So, as a preemptive measure, on the night before the new year, which was October 31st, the people would dress in costumes to ward off the roaming ghosts – and thus began the ritual of dressing up on the night of All Hallows’ Eve.
“Some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, which comes from the Old Irish for ‘summer’s end’,” Historian, Nicholas Rogers said.
And so it has been made clear that we have adopted what was a very scary religious ritual and transformed it into a night of activities and thrilling fun. In Egypt, American schools have set it as an official holiday where the students can enjoy an entire day related to Halloween. Perhaps for History class, these American schools should teach about the origins of All Hallows’ Eve.