1. The evening before "All Saints' Day," hence "Eve of All Hallows": "All Hallowsevening," or "Hallowe'en." When I was growing up, half a century ago, we still wrote it as a contraction, but today it's just Halloween.
2. Not, alas, the number two holiday in retail sales, right behind Christmas (snopes.com informs us): still behind Valentine's Day (natch), Mothers and Fathers Days (oh, okay), and even Easter (really? -- are they including clothing sales? (them nineteenth century bonnets, no doubt), or just eggs and dye and candy, and baskets with weird green stuff in 'em?). Still, #6 ain't so bad, with costumes and cards and candy amounting to multibillions in sales every year.
3. Kids are born magicians. Nobody has to teach them to be so. The world tries to talk us out of Magick pretty quickly, though, so most of us come to require counter-influences to reassure us we had it right the first time. For my generation of Americans that was Bible stories, for starters (if only on TV), and other such grimoires -- A Child's Garden of Verses, Mother Goose, Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm and the like -- and then movies, particularly those from Disney Studios. Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland; on to Mary Poppins, all of which -- particularly Mary Poppins! -- in turn led back to the written stories behind them. Mary Poppins in the Park, Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane. All those library books; some more SF than fantasy, some concealing the fact that they were "magical" at all (any Danny Dunn fans reading this?). Yet all of them positively glittering with Magick.
4. And Halloween was the magical holiday, of course. Christmas was magical, too, but that was God's, and/or Santa's, Magick; Halloween was the night your own Magick was let loose. Invoke your inner nature to visible appearance! -- your highest aspiration, or deepest fear...or just whatever you fancied. Big secret: the fuddy-duddies have it exactly right, of course: Halloween teaches you that you can be free. It is exactly the abomination they fear it is. That is why God so loves and blesses Halloween.
5. Another Big Secret: Halloween was actually invented in September 1962 EV by that fellow in our icon, St. Ray Douglas Bradbury, in his book Something Wicked This Way Comes. He started it this way (and forgive the "boys" part, 'cause whatever distinctions there be it goes just as insistently for girls):
First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys. Not that all months aren't rare. But there be bad and good, as the pirates say. Take September, a bad month: school begins. Consider August, a good month: school hasn't begun yet. July, well, July's really fine: there's no chance in the world for school. June, no doubting it, June's best of all, for the school doors spring wide and September's a billion years away.
But you take October, now. School's been on a month and you're riding easier in the reins, jogging along. You got time to think of the garbage you'll dump on old man Prickett's porch, or the hairy-ape costume you'll wear to the YMCA the last night of the month. And if it's around October twentieth and everything smoky-smelling and the sky orange and ash gray at twilight, it seems Halloween will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bedsheets around corners.
But one strange wild dark long year, Halloween came early....
That last sentence, by the 'bye, ends forever the fastidiousness that places mandatory commas between adjectives. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, or however Emerson put it. :)
6. So, yeah, there it is: Something Wicked This Way Comes (the book, not the movie). And Dandelion Wine, too. Glittering with Magick.
7. Until you come to find, as St. Delmore Schwartz had it, that "in dreams begin responsibilities": that Magick is not only sober fact, it is the only sober fact.
To be continued. :D
93 93/93 -- AJ