Hallowe’en, Halloween, All Hallows Eve, the day before All Saints Day or simply October 31st.
Whatever the name, the spirit of the thing remains the same throughout this and many other countries around the world…scary sights, cool costumes and tasty treats! But there are many ways in which this time can be enjoyed whilst at the same time being a part-time eco warrior!
Photo courtesy of William Warby via Creative Commons.
Nowadays, where kids (and some adults) are concerned, it is customary to buy a Halloween costume from the local supermarket. The unfortunate fact is that the majority of these costumes are not created to modern fire safety conformance, and are produced from unsustainable materials by workers in harsh working environments. To be frank, there is a lot of fun being missed out on by NOT making your own costume! While it may seem at first to be a ‘poor-man’s’ alternative, there is a lot of entertainment to be had in deciding what to be and making all the parts of the costume; all without being limited to what’s left on the shelf. It is also better for the environment as everything you could use is likely to be immeasurably more biodegradable than plastic and polymers.
Another energy saving option would be to eschew the traditional spooky lights all hours of the night and return to the ways of our ancestors with drippy candles. Not only will this help save on the electric bills, but nothing says spooky like flickering shadows cast by candlelight. We typically put one in the pumpkin, but scatter them around the house/garden (with due care and consideration of surrounding fire hazards of course) and take your position behind the sofa where it’s safe!
Now, a big part of Halloween involves sweets and treats; children roving from house to house harvesting monstrous quantities of tooth rotters, and most people only to happy to comply via a gigantic tub of Haribo – but this is a wonderful opportunity to spread awareness of alternative options. There is a massive variety of Fairtrade branded sweets, chocolates and candies that would make ideal Halloween treats – what’s more it has the potential to raise awareness that just because a chocolate is organic, fair trade or gluten free it does not have to be foul tasting.
Cultural Appropriation is a word that is doing a lot of circulating recently and I feel it is worth a mention here. If you are going to make a costume that bears some significance to another culture, please do bear in mind the aspects of that culture and what it would mean to them personally. For example, Native American Headdresses are a symbol of veneration, honour and respect amongst this quiet and reserved community. The gigantic feathered headdresses popularised by Hollywood, typically seen on the heads of ancient village elders should not really be worn as part of a scary costume at Halloween whilst whooping down the street! While you personally may not have any intent to offend anyone, the fact remains that offence may be caused to someone of that cultural persuasion. Similarly, the parodying of cultural or ethnic stereotypes which may have been deemed perfectly acceptable 30 years ago has the power to offend and upset many people and many groups who historically and presently have suffered discrimination and oppression. I`m not saying don’t have fun – but please have a think about what you will wear, how you act and how it will affect others.
This is not to say references from other cultures cannot be used and enjoyed – but respectfully so. Dressing up as a Draugr for example, while having no association to our own culture would make for a very good costume as it is particularly relevant to the occasion.
At the end of the day, the modern Halloween holiday is quite far removed from its original pagan origins of warding away evil spirits and the thinning of the veil between this world and the next – it has adapted and evolved, exponentially so over these past few decades, to become a multicultural and multinational festival celebrating carving faces into vegetables, socialising with friends and neighbours, dressing up as weird monsters and engaging in the liberal consumption of treats, sweets, chocolates and anything else that happens to cross your path until your belt no longer fits.
Go – enjoy yourself!
by student blogger, Chris Bamber