Halloween: The Gay High Holiday

Three decades ago, Halloween was almost a forgotten holiday across the UK, Europe and Japan. Even in Germany and some other countries in the late 20th century, Halloween was still an exclusively children’s holiday. So, why is the LGBT+ community responsible for bringing the halo back into the eve?

With its roots dating back to old pagan beliefs, the history of All Hallows Eve is long.  Samhain was a Gaelic festival marking the last days of the harvest and Summer. It was celebrated on the evening of the 31st of October when the boundaries between the physical and the spiritual worlds were blurred. According to the old Celts, spirits and fairies could easily visit on this evening, so food and drinks were offered in return for saving humans and their animals. Wearing costumes and masks were also a way to confuse the foreign visitors. 

Dare we mention that the big part of this old festival was playing with nuts

 In ancient societies, LGBT+ people often served as intermediaries between mortals and spirits. Divination is an occult ritual where a pagan priest or a shaman would ’’read’’ the hidden meanings or foretell the future using nuts or apples. In fact, nuts (and apples!) were a common treat given to men wearing costumes, also known as mummers, who were reciting folk tales during these festive days – more than two thousand years ago.

But this is not the only reason why Halloween is often considered the Gay High Holiday.

Since the 1940s, San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood had its own Halloween celebration for children, but by the late 1970s, the celebration shifted to a flamboyantly LGBT+ street party. Though we think of San Francisco as this liberal bastion, in the mid 19th century, the city actually was quite oppressive and had laws against wearing clothes which are not in accordance to one’s sex. Needless to say, the LGBT+ community realized that Halloween in the Castro provided the perfect opportunity to express themselves in all their fabulousness. 

Will & Grace – S1, E5

From the those early LGBT+ Halloween Street parties in the Castro, adult Halloween celebrations spread throughout LGBT+ communities throughout the U.S.. We all know that the LGBT+ community has been a major cultural and trend setting community throughout history, which is why our adult heterosexual brothers and sisters joined in on the Halloween celebrations. Today, Halloween is a major party night for adults across the world.  

What makes Halloween inevitably queer is not just its spiritual or historical background and not even the usual stereotypes about LGBT+ people being into ’’fashion, drama and dressing up’’. It’s the genuine need to come out, to revel, play or experiment with ones identity and to be free of judgment, shame or fear. This is why Halloween symbolizes the overall LGBT+ liberalization movement.

So, on this year’s Halloween, let’s be outrageous, inappropriate and ridiculous! Let’s be safe, have fun and respect each other. Halloween is for everyone!  And remember: 

To quote Will from Will & Grace, “Remember, wear reflective tape, get lots of candy, and don’t put anything in your mouth that isn’t wrapped.”

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