By Bethany-Angel Chijindu, Staff Writer
Growing up in Nigeria and living in both Zambia and Kenya, Halloween was not a commonly celebrated holiday. This is in contrast with Christmas and Easter (the Christian holidays), Eid Al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha (Muslim Holidays), and other traditional festivals that are widely celebrated by the practitioners of each of the different religions.
In fact, as a child, I only knew about Halloween from western movies and books. Halloween was not a topic that was openly discussed at home, school, or in the playground. Parents were very protective of us as children, and to many African parents Halloween was tantamount to witchcraft. Africans are, for the most part, very spiritual people: their spirituality guides how they think and act.
There are a lot of superstitious beliefs in Africa, and witchcraft is something to be feared and protected against. From an early age, the African child is taught to be weary and careful; for example children are taught to never pick up money from the ground, as you never know if it is a trap set by money ritualists. These superstitious are closely tied to the religious beliefs of many Africans.
The three major religions in the region are Christianity, Islam and traditional beliefs, and all three acknowledge that there are both good and evil spirits at work in the world. For Africans who practice Christianity, Halloween is the celebration of evil and is contrary to Christian beliefs. They look beyond the costumes, candy and games and see the history behind the holiday. The same reasoning holds for Africans who are Muslim: Halloween is idolatry and should be avoided because of its pagan roots.
For those who still practice traditional beliefs and worship the local gods and goddesses, there is a push against Halloween since it seen as imperialists trying to undermine African traditional values. Africans who practice Halloween are seen as sellouts who look down on their own traditional customs but are quick to adopt foreign customs and practices without researching its history.
After all, when the western missionaries came to Africa they spoke against the traditional festivals and practices, decreeing that they were idols; so it is hypocritical for the western world to transport Halloween to Africa. African cultures already have their own customs that celebrate the dead and their ancestors: for example, in Nigeria there are numerous festivals like the Awuru Odo festival celebrated by the Igbos , the Eyo festival in Lagos, and the Ekpe festival in Calabar.
For Africans there are deeper meanings behind actions, so celebrating Halloween simply because one now lives in the US or another Western country is not a light decision to make. However, with exposure to western culture and the spread of globalization, some young Africans are beginning to celebrate Halloween. In cities around the continent there are parties and events held in upscale neighborhoods, and young people flock to these events proving that cultures are not static and that many influences guide the way people live in a modern society.
But despite exposure to the western culture, there are those of us who, in adherence to our beliefs, remain true to our religious and cultural norms and refuse to partake in Halloween celebrations. This is testament to the fact that individuals do have a choice, and this freedom to choose is something worth celebrating as cultures continue to clash under globalization.