Slavic peoples have their Baba Yaga, Mexicans honor the Day of the Dead, and we wear pumpkin costumes and go trick-or-treating. Halloween is fun, but it has pagan roots like many other rituals. And the role of rituals goes beyond wearing costumes and asking for candy.
As a society, we need rituals to achieve collective effervescence, says Emile Durkheim. Emotional collective experiences help foster collective identity in times of social fragmentation, increasing urbanization, and isolation. Rituals that center on the supernatural make us act differently than we would in our daily lives. Holiday festivities are an expression of organized collective behavior, which makes us forget about institutions and laws for a day or two.
And we do not talk about deviant actions here. Halloween is about making children happy – our kids and children we have never seen. Preparing for the holidays is a joyful experience in itself. We decorate our homes, go on a shopping spree, cook special meals, and pull out the fineries. All houses in the neighborhood, all retail stores and malls are part of the festive buzz. Buildings all over the city are dressed up in lights to remind us that it is time for celebration and indulgence. This helps us unwind and “recharge the batteries”. Whether we speak of festivities in Canada, Russia, or Japan, people gather with their families and friends and celebrate things in life. Rituals bring us closer together.
Oh remember Baba Yaga? Slavic children are scared she would come and kidnap them. So how about going trick-or-treating?
Infographic courtesy of La Boutique du T-Shirt
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