Hallowe’en started out, like many holidays and festivals, as a pagan get-together where it was not unusual for the ancients to sacrifice animals and nubile young virgins to the gods, hold massive orgies and party like it was 999.
All Hallow’s Eve is a few notches above even Christmas as a favourite “religious” holiday of mine. I can be anybody or anything I want and I don’t have to give away gifts.
There is no official word for Hallowe’en in Cree. Some call it “Dressup Time.” Some of the more imaginative call it “When Ghosts Walk,” “When Monsters Walk” or “Monster Day.”
Hallowe’en is much loved in Cree land. People spend weeks preparing in secret for the big night. Most people dig through their boxes of old clothing, throw on a store-bought mask, and assemble costumes and personae from scratch at the last minute. Usually young people will borrow their grandparents’ clothes for the night and go out as… well… old people. It is not unusual for a masked youngster to walk into the community Hallowe’en dance hall holding a bottle wearing their parents’ hand-me-downs. The parents will also get into it and come out dressed as babies with baggy diapers and maybe sucking on a soother.
In fact some Crees love the whole ritual so much they’ll dress up when it’s not Hallowe’en. One young gentleman received his life-long alias from one such night. He donned a long black jacket, black hip waders and crowned himself with a tire tube and scared the heck out of couples walking along the boardwalk. He’s been trying to live down his nickname ever since.
The dancing and games go on till the early hours. Spectators vote for the scari-
est, funniest, most original or the sexiest costume. It’s a great forum for the Cree introvert to act up and show his truer self without fear of being laughed at and ridiculed. There is always someone, usually a guy, dressed up like some loose and carefree woman swiveling and swaying her hips to the music.
This night is also a time when some get their aggressions out. My cousin reminded me of past Hallowe’ens when gangs of young men would run around Waskaganish toppling over people’s outhouses. She didn’t say whether anyone was ever in the middle of Nature’s call when the outhouses fell.
In another community, a friend of a friend once tried to egg a school official’s residence. They hurled the first egg but it ended up cracking the window. So they ran away. With the egg still intact.
At the end of the night the participants are unmasked and the crowd reacts when someone they never expected to be dressed up is revealed on stage.
In more civilized southern communities kids have been known to leave surprises on people’s doorsteps. Early in the evening they would fill their bellies with pickles, milk, and other still-secret ingredients and wait. When the time came they would defecate in a paper bag, leave it on doorsteps and then, set it afire.
Another favourite was lathering up windows or painting someone’s car with children’s paint. It’s easier to wash off.
Okay, that’s enough. I have to go pick up my Elvis costume and sideburns. Happy trickor treating.
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org