Recently I read a mostly excellent article, in which the author asks white people to stop colonizing Day of the Dead celebrations. In exchange, she offers Halloween. I agree with every single word she writes about colonization and how concerning it is to have Day of the Dead celebrations that are populated exclusively by white people. However, I still had an icky feeling about this article.
The problem? Halloween is already part of Pagan culture.
Don’t advocate anti-colonialism while in the same breath inviting people to colonize a religious minority’s holiday. Witches have enough trouble being taken seriously without further appropriation of what is, for many of us, the witch’s new year. Capitalism has infiltrated Halloween already and made it about candy and costumes (many of them racist). Witches still manage to breathe spirituality into Halloween. They do so with grace: I’ve seen many a Samhain altar decorated with things found at Target and Michael’s that still feels like a sacred space.
So where does this leave white people who aren’t Pagan? They still crave communion with and remembrance of their dearly departed. If you’re in this situation, may I suggest that you remember the dead every day. Set up a space where you keep pictures and mementos of those who have died. Smile at that space every day. Keep it clean. Actively remember those who have died. Tell stories to your kids, to your friends. You don’t need a special day to do any of that. What you need is to step outside the culture that advocates silence about death and forgetting the dead. Ignore it. Fight against it. But please, don’t take our holidays. Any of ours. Be they holidays of a religious, racial, or ethnic minority, don’t take them. Make your own.
I’ll say it again: don’t advocate anti-colonialism while in the same breath inviting people to colonize a religious minority’s holiday. Halloween isn’t yours to give. Halloween isn’t an unclaimed holiday. We witches are still here. We are still celebrating Samhain.