On 31st October Bümed Mec Schools celebrated the festival known as Halloween in English-speaking countries. The rationale for this is to give children a taste of the culture behind language they are learning, and of course, it is fun and enjoyable for both children and adults to dress up and play games. I, like many, have fond memories of Halloween as a child dressing up with my friends and knocking on neighbours’ door in search of sweets or candy, and as an adult going to costume parties.
However, I have always wondered how this festival is perceived elsewhere. It is not a religious celebration, or a celebration of a leader or the inception of a country, so it must seem strange that we dress up as ghosts and other gruesome supernatural creatures. In fact, the misconception that we are celebrating the darker side of life is understandable but false one.
As a modern educational institute in Turkey, it is important that we provide a historical context for children and parents to dispel this misconception and give a wider understanding of Halloween. If you ask a child why we dress up, they will respond by saying it is fun, which is very true, but do they know how this festival originated and grew to be the second most popular celebration, after Christmas, in the calender of English-speaking countries?
In my classroom, the children learned that in ancient times in the celtic countries of Ireland and Scotland, when the summer drew to a close and the dark, cold nights became longer, people were afraid of evil spirits and so dressed up in the streets and made noise to frighten them away. The celebration was called Samhain.
In modern times, festivals like Halloween and Christmas are popular because they lift the spirits when the cold and darkness sets in. These festivals are a reason for people to dress up or light up the streets, eat with friends or family, go in search of sweets, sing songs and ultimately feel some happiness or merriment during the long winter months. Halloween is certainly not about celebrating evil, but quite the reverse. It brings family and community together. And when I asked the question in my classroom, the student who answered was correct – it is fun to dress up and it is exciting to scare or be scared a little; there is nothing more sinister to it.
Our students had a wonderful time on 31st October. They dressed up in costumes and played musical statues to popular Halloween tunes. They heard ghost stories and made halloween masks, and they loved the traditional Halloween game of apple-bobbing, a challenge that many relished, and were desperate to succeed at.
Everyone laughed and danced and had a lot of fun, and this undoubtedly was the whole point.