From a Stuffed Guy to Killer Clowns

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot, UK

Ever since shopping became so commercialised certain days are heavily promoted; Christmas, of course, because there are so many presents to buy, special days for mothers, fathers and grandparents, Valentine, and the list goes on. Most of these days are ostensibly for pleasant reasons, some religious in origin and some not.

At this time of year, Britain in the near past had bonfire night and a fireworks display on 5th November in the run up to which children would make a stuffed effigy of Guy Fawkes, and sit on street corners asking passers-by “penny for the Guy?” which they could then happily spend on sweets. Poor Guy would help raise this income for a few days before, on Bonfire Night, he would be burnt, albeit not alive, on the top of a bonfire.

This was all very strange but always seemed more as a remembrance of the Gunpowder Plot rather than a celebration. Halloween did make an appearance on 31st October but really only as an opportunity to giggle over scary stories in the dark.

Nowadays, however, Guy and scary stories have taken more of a back seat as the newer American customs have been added to the original European traditions of Halloween and invaded Britain. Halloween also seems to last longer and longer as weeks beforehand costumes, decorations and packs of themed sweets appear for sale in spookily decorated aisles of supermarkets. Costumed children and teenagers go trick or treating, knocking on strangers doors asking for sweets; in some cases refusal leads to pranks being played on the innocent householder. Anyone not wishing to participate is called a bit of a spoilsport as if it is their duty to go along with these strange growing traditions of Halloween.

This year Halloween has taken a more frightening turn in reality with the appearance of the “killer clowns” who have been scaring passers-by, in many cases young children. Again this began in the US in late summer before crossing the Atlantic. There have been reports of children afraid to walk to and from school on their own and even sleepless nights and nightmares about clowns. Much police time has been wasted in trying to catch these troublemakers and calm angry fathers who threaten to take the law into their own hands by beating up clowns who scare their children.

And all this is supposed to be a bit of a laugh? A bit of fun to spice up gloomy autumn days? It is well known the negative effects horror can have on young minds, yet the Halloween tradition grows year on year. Pressure also grows to spend more on costumes and sweets as parties are thrown and trick or treat groups arranged; with the current financial climate this is hardly easy for already cash-strapped families trying to please their children.

Halloween is widely associated with Christian traditions as being the eve of the two following Days, All Hallows and All Souls when saints and other dead are honoured. However as in so many other supposed Christian traditions Halloween is also of Pagan origin, celebrating the festival of Samhain, the Celtic New Year and was tied in by the Church to attract more worshippers.

However people don’t really think about what Halloween means any more as it is now a lucrative commercial opportunity as well as a ‘fun’ day of spooks and scares. With growing Halloween traditions, killer clowns and vigilantes becoming increasingly common this is all getting out of hand and the real frightening aspect is imagining how much further it can go.

Post Script:
What are the origins of Halloween and what does Islam say about such traditions? Lajna UK’s Navida Sayed explains in detail for The Review of the Religions.

Halloween: Harmless or harmful fun? http://www.reviewofreligions.org/5071/halloween-harmless-or-harmful-fun/

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