Trick or treat: Why Halloween is an Ecofeminist issue

Trick or Treat

Trick or treat: Why Halloween is an Ecofeminist issue

The intrinsic relationship between the celebration of the harvest season, climate change and ecofeminism

Originally celebrated between October 31st and November 1st, what we know today as Halloween is a opens in a new windowpagan celebration that dates to ancient Celtic spiritual tradition.

During this period, the Celtics believed that the veil between living and dead was lifted, and they gave offerings to their ancestors, sang, and danced around bonfires. It is also important to note that this preceded Winter, a long period of cold, retreat and at times, scarcity.

Halloween was a opens in a new windowcelebration of the harvest season, given that during Winter communities couldn’t farm, this was a moment to stock grain supplies, ensuring survival during winter. Additionally, some animals would be slaughtered since there would be no forage to feed the herds.

It was common to have feasts during Halloween (hence the sharing of candy today), to signal successful harvesting. Communities would collectively rejoice at the food they had to sustain themselves until the following sow season began.

For many who farm in the Northern Hemisphere, even today – though not necessarily related to Halloween – this is a time to freeze meat since there is no summer grass. This is especially the case in agricultural communities where cattle are the center of pastoral life.

However, as the opens in a new windowFall season warms, Halloween might undergo some changes in the next years. Rising global temperatures might threaten pumpkin harvest. If we were to change the date of Halloween to accurately fall in harvest season in the Northern Hemisphere, when would we celebrate it?

Independently of where we live, it is becoming increasingly harder to identify the different seasons. opens in a new windowChanges in rainfall patterns and average temperatures have forced communities to change the way they farm.

Climate change is upon us

Climate change is upon us. Today, especially in the Southern Hemisphere, we see how droughts and floods are more common and last longer than before. Rising sea levels and warmer temperatures are a threat to entire ecosystems. Not to mention the frequency and impact of natural disasters such as cyclones. This environmental crisis leads to loss of land, potable water, crops, and livestock.

Trick or treat: Why Halloween is an Ecofeminist issue expected evolution of drought

Source: opens in a new windowEffects of climate change on agriculture in Africa | McKinsey

If we consider that many opens in a new windowpeasant, working-class and rural women, because of the gendered division of labor, are in constant contact with natural resources and the environment when collecting water, getting medicinal herbs, or growing food, for instance, then it comes with no surprise that we are disproportionally affected by the environmental crisis despite holding the least responsibility for its causes.

"Normally our planting season starts in August after we have received rains. But now things have changed. We received too much rain in January, and our crops were water-logged, and we lost those crops. After that, we experienced a drought – no rain for 6 months. Then, it started raining again in October – and it is not ‘normal’ rain – it’s torrential rain. As we are in Lesotho, we are experiencing four seasons in one day. As small-scale farmers and women, the most affected people of these changing climate and conditions, we did nothing to cause these changes. And as women, we’re expected to feed our families. How can we do that with the climate crisis? If our crops are water-logged then we experience droughts."

Lesotho Rural Women’s Assembly activist-farmer, 2021

In a scenario of limited resources conflicts arise. With conflicts comes displacement, insecurity, and a opens in a new windowmultitude of violence against women’s bodies and livelihoods.

Before the original purpose of Halloween fades permanently, I wonder if we can tap into that Past to project alternative Futures. As temperatures rise and more conflicts emerge, how can we create networks for resource sharing? What if, instead of candy, we shared seeds with each other?

What spaces can we create to break bread and support one another as we protect our land and natural resources?

Trick or treat: Why Halloween is an Ecofeminist issue Ugandan activist jpg

Photo: Ugandan Activist Betti Kusemererwa in Rwamutonga, 2021

As we make space for fun and playfulness and we dress up and be silly, may we remember Halloween as the holiday for sharing and celebrating our harvest, with both living and dead, and for acknowledging the spiritual and material dimensions of our collective existence.

By Eliana N’Zualo,
Ecofeminist and Just Development Alternatives Coordinator, WoMin

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