Halloween: Depending on who you ask, it can be described as anything from another commercial holiday, created for the purpose of lining the pockets of a variety of companies, to the day Satan walks the earth, cursing sinners and playing the most hardcore of death metal. To some it can be a great excuse to hold a fun costume party and spend quality time with good friends, whilst to some left leaning others it’s a time filled with cultural appropriation and micro-aggressions. However, I would argue that Halloween is none of these things. Instead, it is the cornerstone of the true Ireland, and could help form a solid foundation for the concept of a uniquely Irish form of Conservatism.

Firstly, I would argue that Halloween is one of the most Irish things in existence. Halloween comes from the ancient Irish holiday of Samhain, a religious celebration associated mainly with the Celts, although possibly predating even their time on this island. This is supported by the fact that the Mound of the Hostages in Tara was built by the pre-Celtic Irish well over five thousand years ago, and has its entrance lined up perfectly with the Samhain sunrise, much in the same way Newgrange lines up with the sunrise on the winter solstice. This means that Halloween as a festival has probably existed in Ireland for at least five thousand years. That’s longer than the time Christianity and potatoes have spent here combined! With that established, it can be fairly stated that Halloween has been an influence on the Irish as a people longer than any other established tradition.

But what are the main beliefs surrounding Halloween, and how do they traditionally lend themselves to conservatism? This question is a little tougher to answer, due to the pagan religious having an aversion to writing their beliefs down. However, the vast majority of scholars say that the eve of Samhain was seen as the time when the mortal realm and the Otherworlds were closest together, allowing the dead to roam the mortal realm, and the living to stumble into the Otherworld. People would protect themselves against spiritual visitors by dressing up in costumes, and it would be customary to leave offerings for the various creatures who would supposedly come and visit during the night. Bonfires were also lit as symbols and means of purification and sacrifice, however they were not unique to the festival, and were also prevalent during Beltaine, as well as Lughnasadh.

Some of you may have noticed that the survival of this festival is rather strange considering the impact that Christianity had on Ireland. Whilst the festival has always been an important one for Ireland, and the Irish as a whole, surely it is antithetical to the Christian outlook on the world? This is a position taken by many Christians, especially some of the more fundamentalist ones across the Atlantic, who are vocal about the ‘Satanic’ inspiration for the festival. A quick google search of ‘Halloween evil’ will reap over 27 million pages from Christian sites telling you to avoid the holiday like the plague. This is a position reflected too by the early Catholic church, who only adopted the holiday of All Saint’s Day in order to try and get the Celts away from their “devil worshipping”, and to try and associate the day with more pious practices. Suffice to say they failed utterly.

So what does the survival of Samhain tell us about what it means to be Irish? For me, at least, I feel it highlights how resilient Irish culture can be. Despite the overwhelming power the Church had up until the turn of the 21st century, the institution was unable to force Irish culture to change in a way the people didn’t want it to. Not only did they fail to stamp out the holiday, under the church it actually expanded and spread, so that now the holiday is celebrated in every country in the western world. It shows how Ireland will always grow, but never fundamentally change its core values.

This, for me, is why it can be fairly said that Halloween is a conservative holiday. It is an unbroken link with our ancient past, and with the conservative philosophy that went with it. Such was not a philosophy of hate, nor sexism, nor degeneration, but one of honour, fairness and meritocracy. Unlike the Christian conservatism that came after it, the old Irish philosophy believed that men and women were inherently equal, and that although there were traditional roles assigned to each, it was also acceptable for an unusual individual to break these roles to fulfill their full potential. It is also an ideology that will not tolerate cultural relativism, revisionism or the oppressive oversensitivity of the regressive left, and one that cherishes the courage of an individual, as well as the ability and drive to fight for tightly held beliefs. Despite being an ideology that might have existed even before the 21st century B.C, it is one more than ready for the 21st century A.D.

But that’s what Halloween should and could be, not what Halloween is. Halloween right now is still little more than a capitalistic cash grab, and despite its prevalence in the west, has little sway over culture as a whole. However, despite everything that has happened, despite the degradation of what it means to be Irish, Samhain is still there, along with the ancient influences behind it. We, as conservatives, just need to figure out a way to tap into it, to revive the lost but still viable ideology, and use it to push our country out of the doldrums of cultural confusion and back to the forefront of the modern world.

Peter Caddle

Posted by Peter Caddle

Peter is the Burkean's resident expert on all things popular and cultural.

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