A review of Bahamian Culture x Halloween
By: Kevanté Cash
Throughout generations, Bahamian superstition and rigid religious practices have shunned the spirit of Halloween. Though this anti-Halloween spirit lingers among many, some Bahamians have done away with the notion of the festival being a practice of anti-religiosity or that it is against the faith many Bahamians have come to know – Christianity.
Halloween, contrary to popular belief, is a celebration of the spiritual and supernatural. It is a gathering of same faith people preparing themselves for prayer and fasting for the three-day celebration of the lives of saints, martyrs and all those who have transitioned from one realm into the next. The word Hallowe’en is a contraction of the words “Hallows’ Evening,” also known as “All Hallows’ Eve” or “All Saints’ Eve” – the day before All Saints’ Day on November 1 (BBC, 2010).
Bahamian millennial culture has gotten a hold of this information and set to work debunking the myths of the celebration and stereotypes of people who participate in it. Some of whom are artists like Jodi Minnis, 23, who says she is one of very few Bahamian millennials who got to celebrate Halloween growing up as a child.
“Every year as a child my mom used to make us costumes and we’d go to Treasure Cove to trick or treat. It was a big thing every year, and that tradition just carried into adulthood – whether it’s staying in and watching Halloween movies or actually going out and partying, I follow the tradition of doing something on that day.
“I think it was different for me growing up because of the kind of people my parents are. My mother is very liberal and a free thinker. Because she had a friend who also made it [Halloween] a thing with [her] kids, they made it an event for us to spend time with other children. And my dad… I just think he never openly opposed it because we were having fun.”
Jodi believes other Bahamians and their parents are likely opposed to the celebration of Halloween because it’s “highly demonized.” She says that because our superstitious culture enables us to believe heavily in demons, devils, monsters and witchcraft, we’ve built the idea that Halloween is a celebration of evil that’s deeply rooted in “the devil’s work.” But she also believes Bahamian millennials have worked hard to demystify the spirit and celebration of that day.
“More and more I see people actually looking forward to dressing up, or you’ll go to a party and people are dressed up. And then there are multiple parties happening. And then they’re parties outside of the space you’d think this kind of behavior is acceptable in. I think millennials have accepted this celebration more over the years because while growing up, I remember the Christian Council was very strict on the scary movies they’d allow to be played in Galleria Cinemas, but I don’t see a lot of that happening now. Or maybe it happens and I just don’t know, but I do think there’s more leniency on what movies or type of entertainment we’re able to access.”
Jodi says she’s come to realize Halloween “isn’t demonic.”
“The roots are not based in devil work. Death is not equivalent to devil work and celebrating dead people or even recognizing aspects of death, whether it be gory or not, is not evil, because death is a part of life. It happens. And I also don’t think dressing up as something will ‘evoke a spirit within.’ Sometimes, people just want to light firecrackers and have fun.”
While more and more Bahamian millennials seem to be joining in on this fun, not many may have had the privilege to commemorate such an event from childhood like Jodi did.
Twenty-one-year-old Celeste Lundy, psychological assistant and writer, says she never had the chance to celebrate Halloween as a child because her family would always disagree with what they thought were the roots of the celebration.
“I’ve been openly celebrating Halloween for maybe the last three years. When I was growing up, I didn’t celebrate it at all because my family weren’t big fans of what they perceived it was about. My grandmother and parents are very old school. They believed Halloween had a lot to do with death, ghouls, goblins and evil, because my family has a strong Christian heritage; they just felt it was not something that coincided with their beliefs.”
Celeste surmises that the stereotypical views her family and many other Bahamians share of Halloween have a lot to do with miseducation; that many Bahamians may not know the history of Halloween – how it came to be and was integrated with the Christian faith – and that is likely the reason for the negative propaganda.
“What I found interesting was that Halloween actually has Celtic roots, and they believed the veil was thinnest between the living and the dead the night of Samhain [a Gaelic festival of pagan roots], which would be on October 31. So, one of the Christian popes in 1835 tried to integrate the two, Halloween and Christianity, the night before ‘All Saints’ Day,’ and called it ‘Hallows’ Eve’ – meaning they are hallowing or honoring the lives of the fallen.
“The celebration can be viewed as something that’s spiritual, but we’re a people who believe in tradition and we’re big on it. So, if Halloween wasn’t widely celebrated before, I don’t think it’s something older Bahamians would want to engage in now. Younger Bahamians who were raised like me may find an interest in celebrating it if they’re willing to educate themselves about its history.”
Despite her skepticism of just how well-accepted the day’s become, Celeste sees the same proof as Jodi of the work Bahamian millennials have done to debunk the myths surrounding Halloween.
“I see a lot of parties and people dressing up, actually playing into what Halloween is. So maybe the whole ‘getting into character for Halloween’ thing is something millennials are trying to claim for their generation of Bahamians.”
Celeste’s words stand true for many, but for others like Rashad Davis, Halloween holds no real value.
“I don’t necessarily celebrate Halloween. I don’t discredit it, but there’s no emotional or spiritual or any other kind of connection that makes me feel inclined to celebrate it. But I’m also just not a commercial holiday person. I’m not huge on Christmas or Thanksgiving. For me, it’s like, ‘… But why those things?’”
Rashad, 32, professionally known as RL, is a singer, songwriter and brand ambassador who says his lack of inclination to participate in holidays, events and activities of such a nature as Halloween has two-fold reasoning.
“Because I come from a family that migrated to The Bahamas, my mom was the first in her family to experience a lot of holidays and other stuff like that, that people have strong attachments to. So, I don’t have a strong tie that compels me to celebrate it. I also just feel like people behave weirdly during the holidays. People you’ve never spoken to, who don’t care if you eat on a Tuesday, now suddenly care if you eat on Christmas. It’s the same with Halloween. People who are the mousiest ‘librarian’ type in Nassau start turning out for Halloween, and that was always weird for me.”
Rashad believes such festivities are wrapped up in capitalism and taboo culture.
“There are some people who may want to wear a choker or all black and leather on a regular basis, but it’s this single day where people get to wear something short and sexy. But why do I need a reason or day to do it?
“Don’t get me wrong, though – I’m all for people doing it if that’s what they want to do. I’ve been to Halloween costume parties with my friends and people have gone all out. And I’m like: ‘Do you, sis, but I’m just gone be black nerd over here.’”
Rashad, who is also openly queer and allows that to shine through his artistry, says part of the reason he has no regard for Halloween is also because he is comfortable in the skin he’s in, has done the work to accept who he is, and refuses to find ways and spaces to escape from himself. Still, he understands why others may need the space and day to express this other sense of “self.”
“I acknowledge why people feel the need to escape. Especially guys. I feel like girls have fun during Halloween, but I think black men especially get to be goofy and funny and scary, and maybe a little bit nerdy and sexier than they may usually allow themselves to be, and they get a little bit of a pass that night.”
A much older millennial, born in the 1980s, Rashad recognizes that things have changed tremendously since his time growing up. He says younger millennials have a bit more public space to ‘be’ and express themselves, and have more accessibility in terms of courier companies being willing and able to bring in costumes for this grand day.
“It sounds silly, but while that was still possible 10 years ago, it was two or three times more expensive than it is now to do. So, it wasn’t a regular, approachable, financially-accessible thing. My friends who liked Halloween actually had to start planning their costumes through the summer because it either meant that they would travel and get everything they needed, or they were going to have it sent over. So, their Halloween was like a full-blown experience, whereas now things are easier. You just pull up Google and put in what you want, find a store and ship it and it’s all good.”
What he respects about younger millennial culture is the fluidity of it all – that a Halloween party now can have tons of queer individuals, straights, allies and any other types of humans all in one room coexisting harmoniously.
Where to this weekend?
Despite his apathy towards the festival, Rashad says he plans on spending the holiday weekend at Bond Nightclub in the Baha Mar Resorts. Celeste is looking for a safe space to trick or treat with friends, and Jodi plans to hit the town club hopping with loved ones.
If you’re a Halloween celebrant or just looking for something fun to do with friends this weekend, check out Bond at the Baha Mar Resorts, Aura at the Atlantis or the Goodstock Festival at Pirates’ Republic in Downtown Nassau.
Until next time, safe celebrating and Happy Howl-O-Ween!