I love Halloween ever since coming to America. I know it’s commercial, sugar and additive prone, and the denigration of the customs and culture of a downtrodden religion. But I love how everyone can throw on a costume for a few hours, get all excited and friendly … and I enjoy the kids doing it too. Perhaps it’s living in Berkeley (I have no experience outside of cold, awkward England), but when whole streets get into the swing together, something very special happens, if only for an evening.
My first novel, A Gardener’s Tale, illustrated the struggle between the Pagan religions and Christianity in rural England. It follows two years in the lives of the villagers and the stranger who comes into their community. One of the elements felt by the villagers is the breakdown of their community, how they are becoming increasingly estranged from their neighbors.
It is happening today more than ever. How many of us really know our neighbors and those living across the road? My neighborhood began a community initiative to get to know each other after a woman was attacked and a man tried to take her handbag. As she screamed for help, there was a spontaneous outpouring of people from their houses. Out of nowhere, that street became a community.
We need Halloweens to bind us together rather than crimes. With so much conflict in the world focused around religion, perhaps we also need the gentler, older religions. The earth certainly does.
So here’s to candy and spontaneous celebration. Happy Samhain, everyone.
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com