Wiccans know the upcoming Sabbat as Samhain, the beginning of a new Wheel of the Year. As the leaves fall from the trees and Mother Winter’s grip on the world strengthens, the veil between our world and others thins, so much so that many are able to move freely between the two for a night. Samhain is our most sacred holiday, and to the rest of the world, it’s known only as the costumed-up, blood and guts, mystical creature and candy-induced comma called Halloween.
How should we, as Wiccans and witches, feel about the commercialization of this day? Do we have an obligation to feel a particular way, to set the record straight? This is a question that I’ve asked myself since becoming Wiccan and performing my first spell almost two years ago, and one to which I am still not sure of the answer.
It’s also a question other religions ask about the commercialization of their own holidays as well. Take Christmas for example, a day that Christians by and large claim as their own, the birthday of their Jesus. (Though I’d like to point out that Jesus was likely born in April.) Over the past several years around that time of year, I always hear about Christians speaking out against the money-making agenda and superficial way the world treats Christmas, when its “original” meaning was to give gifts to friends and family and be merry. Regardless of any attached religion, every major holiday is used as a merchandising endeavor.
It’s easy enough to understand why this happens. It all comes down to money. It’s not about a lack of understanding or respect for what others view as sacred, or about trying to trash someone else’s beliefs. Retail stores make it about business.
But it still begs the question how we should feel about it, and how out-spoken we should be. As with anything in Wicca though, ask ten Wiccans a question and you will get ten different answers. For me personally, this is not one of those questions that’s make-or-break. Whether or not I dress up for Halloween really doesn’t have any effect on how I celebrate Samhain. Despite the fact that they share the same day, the two have little enough to do with each other in my mind.
Here is something else I thought of as well: Are the costumes and the concept of “trick or treat” society’s way of dealing with social deviance associated with Wicca?