In but a few days time, millions of youth will take to the streets to trick or treat for candy from neighbors; fraternities will once again be host to parties that leave little to the imagination; and adults will dress up in fantasy gear to engage in vain attempts to replicate their youth by searching for a new type of candy.
There are people who don’t celebrate Halloween out of religious convictions, largely because Halloween’s origins are derived from pagans (more on this in a later post):
“The word Halloween is derived from the term “All Hallows Eve” which occurred on Oct. 31, the end of summer in Northwestern Europe. “All Saints Day,” or “All Hallows Day” was the next Day, Nov. 1st. Therefore, Halloween is the eve of All Saints Day. Apparently, the origins of Halloween can be traced back to ancient Ireland and Scotland around the time of Christ. On Oct. 31st, the Celts celebrated the end of summer.”
As we will soon learn, Halloween is one of the ultimate manifestations of white people and their history, but today is not the date necessary to discuss this, for another topic exists that showcases exactly why Black people find the entire notion of Halloween fatuous and beneath the need to include it in the 365Black celebration.
We have discussed how Black people love movies in numerous posts, for movies offer one of the purist forms of escapism from the doldrums of life that one can encounter. Yet, many movies are highly offensive to Black people (Good Hair being one), and one genre of holiday film leaves Black people fuming: Halloween movies.
Pre-Obama America has never been more glamorized than when Oct. 31 is celebrated in celluloid, for the major films about Halloween produced by Hollywood exist in an entirely alternate universe where Black people scarcely exist, save for a token Black in a minor, minor and completely uncredited role.
Why is this? Well, SBPDL will elaborate on this in a later post, but the reason is simple: the United States once resembled a Whitopia from sea to shining sea, and now, these same people are being forced into hiding on 21st century reservations that have golf courses, almost no crime and plenty of gracious home owners dispensing candy to children who live in these bubbles, or Whitopia’s.
However, Halloween films offer a unique view of America that not even Norman Rockwell could immortalize in one of his paintings, for few children who have experienced the glory that is Halloween have been able to articulate the feeling of anticipation and dread that exists for this holiday.
For, Halloween is about friendship, community and family, but beneath the flashy candy exterior lays the reality of Halloween in its Pagan roots: the celebration of those dead. You see, Halloween is essentially a date where the young of the Western World learn about mortality, for one day they too will perish.
We have learned that Black people have little reverence for the dead, and for this reason Halloween must be day that befuddles them greatly (some would argue that Black people have little respect for the living as well).
It is in Halloween movies that the former land of Pre-Obama America is canonized, and it is in these films that white people can view all that is lost and that Black people can see how real communities are organized.
Take for instance The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, a story by Washington Irving that tells the tale of a post-American Revolutionary War town, where white people are building a community and a nation:
“The story is set circa 1790 in the Dutch settlement of Tarry Town, New York, in a secluded glen called Sleepy Hollow. It tells the story of Ichabod Crane, a lean, lanky, and extremely superstitious schoolmaster from Connecticut, who competes with Abraham “Brom Bones” Van Brunt, the town rowdy, for the hand of 18-year-old Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter and sole child of a wealthy farmer, Baltus Van Tassel.
As Crane leaves a party he attended at the Van Tassel home on an autumn night, he is pursued by the Headless Horseman, who is supposedly the ghost of a Hessian trooper who had his head shot off by a stray cannonball during “some nameless battle” of the American Revolutionary War, and who “rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head”.”
It is in a story like this, and the cartoon movie version that children can see for themselves just who the founders of the United States were and where Black people can view Pre-Obama America in her infancy.
A land of hope and change it was, where the English had been defeated, and communities were being built with a watchful eye to a collective future of prosperity.
It was Charles Schulz who wrote the timeless comic strip, The Peanuts, and who gave the world that perpetual loser with the awe-shucks attitude, Charlie Brown. But his Halloween special, “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”:
“With autumn already in full swing, the Peanuts gang prepare for Halloween festivities. Meanwhile, Linus writes a letter to The Great Pumpkin; to Charlie Brown’s disbelief, Snoopy’s laughter, Patty’s assurance that the Great Pumpkin is a fake, and even to Lucy’s violent threat to make Linus stop. Linus laments in the letter that “more people believe in Santa Claus than in you [The Great Pumpkin]”. Linus decides to spend his Halloween in the pumpkin patch, waiting for the Great Pumpkin to arrive…
When 4:00 AM rolls around on November 1, Lucy gets out of her bed to check on Linus. Seeing that Linus’ bed is empty, she goes out to the pumpkin patch only to find Linus lying on the ground, shivering and covered in his blanket. Showing how much she cares for Linus (despite thinking that the Great Pumpkin is nonsense), Lucy walks him home to his room and takes his shoes off, and Linus passes out in his own bed as Lucy puts the covers on him before storming out of his room.
Later on that day, Charlie Brown and Linus are at the rock wall, talking about last night’s events. When Charlie Brown tries to console Linus saying, “I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life, too.”, Linus blows a fuse and angrily vows to Charlie Brown that the Great Pumpkin will come next year, and his ranting continues as the credits roll.”
It is myths that people build identification with their past, solidify cohesion in their present and thus, have a foundation for a future. Sleepy Hollow and the The Great Pumpkin, both represent Halloween in vastly different ways, but have a sound correlation: children need enduring myths that bind them together, and from fertile minds have sprung wonderful stories that promote Halloween to white people, yet strangely leave out Black people.
Recent stories only punctuate the importance of Halloween to the cannon of Western Man, and the nearly complete Black-out of Black people from these celebrations of the macabre. Ray Bradbury gives us a haunting tale of The Halloween Tree, a story that teaches children respect for the dead, and that Halloween is far more than just a date to collect free candy:
“A group of eight boys set out to go trick-or-treating on Halloween, only to discover that a ninth friend, Pipkin, has been whisked away on a journey that could determine whether he lives or dies. Through the help of a mysterious character named Moundshroud, they pursue their friend across time and space through ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman cultures, Celtic Druidism, Notre Dame Cathedral in Medieval Paris, and The Day of the Dead in Mexico.
Along the way, they learn the origins of the holiday that they celebrate, and the role that the fear of death has played in shaping civilization. The Halloween Tree itself, with its many branches laden with jack-o’-lanterns, serves as a metaphor for the historical confluence of these traditions.”
The movie version of this tale is a story that oddly glorifies a Whitopia, and follows the five friends, one of whom is on his deathbed:
“This kids travel to Halloweens past learning why they are dressed as they are- first to Egypt, to learn of the day of the dead, and the significance of mummification. Next they witness old rituals carried out by Celtic Druids, learning the origin and myths of witches. They travel next to an unfinished Notre Dame (which they finish in a matter of minutes with Moundshroud’s magic), to learn of the Cathedral’s use of gargoyles and demons to ward off evil spirits. The at last arrive in Mexico, where the significance of skeletons is revealed, and where Halloween is celebrated as a means of overcoming one’s fear of death. It is in an old tomb in Mexico that they catch up to Pip finally, too late to save him.
Moundshroud tell the children they didn’t make it in time and Pip is now his property, symbolized by his pumpkin. The children, eager to have their friend back, bargain a year from each of their lives, in exchange for Pip’s- Moundshroud accept the deal, and they are teleported home. The children rush to Pip’s house once more, to see if the entire ordeal was in fact real, and are delighted to see their friend back from the hospital. He recounts the journey as a dream he experienced during surgery.”
Friendship, loyalty and respect for the dead are glamorized in this story and the movie offers a touching denouement that is a metaphor for all the people who have sacrificed before us, to ensure that we would have the right to live. The need to always remember those who came before us on October 31 has never been more beautifully displayed than in this film.
And yet, Black people are not to be seen.
Disney put out a film in 1993 that has become a hit – Hocus Pocus – for this film acts a simple lesson in the Salem Witch Trials and connects it to contemporary Salem, a Whitopia if there ever was one:
“The movie opens in 1693 in Salem, Massachusetts where three witch sisters — Winifred, Sarah, and Mary Sanderson — lure a young girl named Emily to their house in the woods, where they prepare to suck out the girl’s lifeforce. Her brother, Thackery Binx, attempts to rescue her, but he is caught by the witches and forced to watch as they drain Emily’s lifeforce, killing her in the process. As the witches are about to do the same to Binx, he angrily calls Winifred a hag, declaring that there is not enough children in the world to make her beautiful. This prompts a livid Winifred and her sisters to instead turn him into an immortal black cat capable of speech, punishing him for the insult by forcing him “not to die, but to live forever with his guilt”.
Not long after this occurs, the witches are caught by the town elders — including Binx’s grieving father — and are sentenced to death for their use of witchcraft. The Sanderson sisters are hanged by the Salem townsfolk, but not before Winifred’s spellbook casts a curse which would raise the three of them from the dead if and when a virgin lit the Black-Flamed Candle in the witches’ home. Unable to return to his family, Binx dedicated his immortal life to guarding the Sanderson home so this curse could not come to light.
Three hundred years later, in 1993, a teenage boy from Los Angeles named Max moves to Salem with his parents and younger sister Dani. Max falls for a girl named Allison who has good knowledge of the history of the Sanderson sisters. On Halloween, Max, Dani and Allison visit the old house of the witches which has since become a museum, and Max lights the Black-Flamed Candle, which summons powerful magic to raise the three witches from the dead.”
Scenes of children trick or treating blissfully through the streets of Salem, families gathering to celebrate Halloween and the deep bond a brother has for his younger sister is shown in this film that once again – oddly – leaves out Black people.
Other films have been made that fit in with this piece, but the ones mentioned have one shocking similarity that is glaringly obvious: they all have a paucity of Black people and omit them completely from Halloween in Pre-Obama America.
Stuff Black People Don’t Like includes Halloween movies for kids, for you would have a better chance of seeing The Great Pumpkin then seeing a Black person in any of these films. Halloween has nothing to do with 365Black, for when you get past the candy aspect of the holiday, a much deeper narrative unfolds that has its origins in Europe and grew profoundly in Pre-Obama America.
Black people worry that white people might one day look with great reverence on their ancestors again, and that Halloween (and these movies) will remind them of all that has been lost, and more importantly, all that will be worth fighting to restore.
For it is in Halloween that kids learn that “death be not proud, though some have called thee.” Instead, it is a date to celebrate, and in these movies, children have a template to understand that a nationwide Whitopia once existed where a shattered Union now rests wearily.