As I was driving through parts of suburban North Dublin this morning, there were signs everywhere of the activities of last Friday night. On green spaces all over the housing estates, there were the leftovers of bonfires; and it was not just the destroyed grass that could be seen, but the remnants of supermarket trollies, destroyed wooden fences, even burnt out cars.
As it happen,s this year before October 31st the usual terrorising of local communities was less noticeable, with far fewer fireworks going off in a manner calculated to frighten people; but there were incidents, including one where I saw a group of youths throw fire crackers into a small gathering of elderly people; and on the night of Hallowe’en itself there was, as we hear, significant trouble all round Dublin, with random acts of violence (including attacks on the emergency services) and now a clean-up bill running into millions.
Maybe Hallowe’en brings out the worst in us. Although the name is a reference to the ‘Eve of All Hallows’ – i.e. the night before All Saints Day on November 1st – its real origins lie in the Celtic pagan festival of Samhain, when there was thought to be a convergence of the physical and spiritual world, with the spirits of the dead rising. Still, generations of people celebrated it harmlessly, and it is only more recently that it, and the period preceding it, have become troublesome and intimidating.
There are, it has to be said, complex reasons behind all this, and perhaps chief amongst them is our apparent inability to sustain a positive image of society and community, so that the kind of ant-social conduct for which the second half of October has become typical is avoided. The particularly disturbing nature of this year’s ‘celebrations’ should prompt us to look urgently at what has gone wrong, and how it can be fixed. We should not just accept this as inevitable. It isn’t.culture, society comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.