Merry Christmas in October: From Celtic Festival to “Queer Christmas” (French version available)
When September comes, students get ready to head back to school. When October comes, everyone gets ready for Halloween. From walking among spirits to seeking candy from neighbours, the day certainly changed over thousands of years.
For a many people, Halloween remains a spooky holiday: children get dressed up in scary costumes, carve pumpkins, and collect candy. For the LGBTQ+ community, Halloween means Christmas comes early as “Queer Christmas”: a time of year when dressing up provides freedom of expression.
The Origins of Halloween
Halloween started out with a Celtic connection 2,000 years ago. Celtic people held festivals on Samhain, a period between October 31 and November 1. It marked the end of the harvest season, meaning that people would harvest their crops and hold feasts with their loved ones.
During this time, they believed that spirits were able to walk among them, as the barrier between the living and the dead weakened for these two days. Since the Celtic people considered Samhain dangerous, dressing up as spirits and fairies, the act of “guising”, helped protect against evil forces.
Guising combined with another tradition, souling, to create trick-or-treating. Souling involved poor, often young children going door-to-door asking for “soul cakes.” These soul cakes represented the release of trapped souls. Who knew that something so haunting would come in the form of a sweet bun?
The Origins of Queer Christmas
As the tradition spread to places like North America, Halloween slowly drifted away from its original Celtic roots. Not all Halloween costumes needed to be scary, and all sorts of candy replaced soul cakes.
Even before Halloween became widely known as a trick-or-treating day, the LGBTQ+ community also transformed Halloween into their own unique day that celebrated dressing up and being around friends.
Halloween parties were all the rage among LGBTQ+ communities in New York and San Francisco during the 1960s. As many American states still had laws against cross-dressing (dressing in clothing traditionally associated with other genders), Halloween provided a safe way to express oneself without breaking any laws.
The Christmas aspect comes from sharing a space with like-minded people. Like Christmas in December, it involves being surrounded by family. The LGBTQ+ community is a family, where they support and relate to their shared experiences.
The tradition of Samhain festivals continues to be celebrated in separate ways by children and adults of the 21st century. For the ghouls and witches out collecting candy, they celebrate dressing up as fellow spirits while sharing delights with their friends.
For the partygoers, Halloween gatherings remain huge for the adult crowd. Among this crowd lies the LGBTQ+ community, a group who continues to embrace a holiday that allows them to experience their true selves, surrounded by their found families.
2,000 years changed a lot of aspects about Halloween, but it never changed the idea of people celebrating an evening together. Happy Halloween, or should I say, Merry Christmas to all!
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