Until a few years ago – say a decade or so – in a village not far from here, the old, old tradition of Meeting March was still very much alive: on the last night of February, young and old armed themselves with pans, and ran around making all the din they could, to scare away Old Winter.
It was good fun, older than the hills, quite pagan – and nobody found it a particular reason for scandal…
Meanwhile, Halloween arrived – via movies and books, mostly – and kids fell in love with it. They started to dress up as devils, witches and other fearful things on All Hallows’ Eve, to go treat-or-tricking, to throw parties – and … crusade! Parish Mums who, as children, had lustily clanged around the village to scare away winter, suddenly took it into their heads that paying this sort of playful tribute to old, old things was the devil’s work, or something…
And… you know, as I write this, it strikes me more and more as a nice creepy story in the making – but never mind.
The fact is that the Parish Mums didn’t seem to make the connection between Meeting March and Halloween – and, when I pointed it out to one of them, she nearly bit my head off for not seeing that it was something else entirely: Meeting March was our own tradition, while Halloween was a foreign import – and pagan to boot! While the “foreign” part is debatable (I’m told of All Hallows’ Eve dances, and fire-jumping, and carved turnip lanterns not far away from here), what puzzled me most was the “pagan” angle: had it really never occurred to her that chasing away winter spirits with a tin and a wooden spoon wasn’t exactly the most Christian of practices?
Apparently it hadn’t, and she was in perfect good faith (if not quite thinking – but then, the two things don’t go necessarily together) when she railed against the pagan foreign import. Why she also had to rail against me as I explained that, while not a huge fan of Halloween-as-it-arrived-here per se, I like the wealth of narrative potential, I don’t know… Did she expect me to join in the crusade, instead of musing on the clash/merging of different traditions? Did she think that I wasn’t taking the whole thing seriously enough? Did she sense that I was considering her as a potential character in a story? Was she just in a huff because I’d suggested she had been indulging in pagan practices herself?
Ah well, never mind: I can live with the disapproval of any number of Parish Mums – especially when there is a chance for a good story. And while I’ve written my October Story already – and it is a ghost story – I think I might play a game tonight, and write something meta-Halloweenish, just for fun.
After all, a story is always a good idea.