ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 30, 2008) - As All Soul’s Day and All Saint’s day are fast approaching, people normally become busy going to cemeteries, cleaning tombs and preparing flowers and candles for their departed loved ones. These are traditions of many Filipinos and the people of Zamboanga whenever October ends.
However, there is something that is shaking the city now; something new is visibly added to the end-of-October-trend in Zamboanga. As carved pumpkins, monsters’ masks, witches’ hats and robes seem to be everywhere, the Halloween fever must be in the air. Zamboanga City has always been acquainted to many different cultures and traditions over the years.
Through the efforts of its government and its people, the cultures have not been thoroughly blown away by the introduction of new ideas. But this year, the city seemed to have embraced something unpracticed before, the celebration of Halloween.
Through the years, Halloween is evident in other parts of the world and even to some parts of the Philippines. But to Zamboanga City, it is quite unusual that Halloween party materials and Halloween parties both personal and led by institutions have suddenly shown all over the place.
It is true that there have been Halloween decorations over some bazaars in the past when it’s almost November but it is not as how it is now.
Halloween has now become as much as Christmas! But the thing is, is Halloween allowed to be celebrated by the two dominant religions in the city, Christianity and Islam, to which traditions the people follow? Is it natural for Zamboanga City to follow something that is not clearly known to their beliefs?
Halloween is often associated with All Soul’s Day but history shows that it does not trace back its roots to the Christian beliefs but to a Celtic celebration, to pagan beliefs and to Devil worships. In the whole history of Christianity, none has been documented to be having any trace of Halloween.
It is only related to the All Hallow’s Eve which was later changed to All Saint’s Day and was moved to November 1 by Pope Gregory IV in 837. It was only attached to its scary meanings because November 1 was also the date of the Celtic autumn festival where the dead was said to revisit the world.
Though it may not be fully a Christian tradition, Halloween has also been attached with some Christian beliefs like the practice of Trick or Treat where kids wearing costumes of ghosts wander off at the night of October 31st, knock on people’s doors and ask for soul cakes or sweets.
This is like a portrayal of the wandering souls in purgatory, who look for some alms. Wearing of costumes may also be associated to a portrayal of non-fear to the power of Satan as Christ will triumph over evil and that his followers must not be afraid.
On the other hand, Kah Ghazzali Taupan, Muslim Retreat and Recollection Coordinator of the Campus Ministry Office of the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, expresses that the celebration by Muslims of Halloween is just similar on how they deal with Christmas and other non-Muslim activities.
“Celebrating Halloween or not, only depends on the level of obedience to the religion a Muslims follows. But in tradition, there is nothing about Halloween known to the teachings of Islam and so, it is not encouraged to be followed.” he says.
“But, it may be allowed only to the extent of partying...”he added. “Just like Christmas and New Year where some Muslims celebrate with the Christians and when Christians celebrate with the Muslims in the different feasts for the purpose of further understanding of each other’s tradition and beliefs.” Zamboanga City is a place where culture and religion vary.
Halloween may not be a Christian tradition or an Islam tradition, it may not be encouraged to be celebrated by both but, it is visibly well celebrated in the city now. The question if it is allowed to be celebrated by the two religions is subject to debate.
But if the purpose of celebrating is to just have fun or better, as Kah Ghaz says, “to understand other traditions and beliefs”, therefore, there is nothing wrong with it. As long as everyone will keep in mind not to be tricked by turning away from ones own culture and embracing other cultures but to just do it for the treats of fun and friendship, nothing will be wrong in celebrating Halloween. (Michelle Angela Araneta)