Our fantastic team of parents, led by the extraordinary Adi Friedburg, have just pulled off another incredible success of a Halloween-Diwali celebration at Kairos. Thank you very sincerely to Adi and your team. We are so grateful to enjoy such a supportive parent body.
It seems a good time to contemplate the significance of Halloween in our school community. As I understand it, in the Christian tradition (doubtless a reinterpretation from the pre-Christian Celtic tradition), All Hallows’ Eve served to honour and pray for the souls of departed loved ones as they travelled the scary journey from Earth through the land Purgatory and on to Heaven (their arrival being celebrated as All Saints Day of 1 November). In our honouring of the festival at our All Saints Day Social Lunch this week, one of our children shared enthusiastically how similar this was to Ancient Egyptian mythology of how a departed soul travels by sun-ship through the sky to join Ra in the land of the Afterlife, often needing to battle monsters along the way — curiously analogous to the journey of our children through the Seniors’ ghoulish creations in their Haunted House.
I’m guessing none of us would regard themselves as religious observers of the festival of All Hallow’s Eve. Nevertheless, the festival carries relevance to us as a community, and not merely as a source of superfluous fun nor as an inspiration for us to be students of comparative religion.
In our context, Halloween offers us firstly a secular opportunity to explore our relationship with ritual. While having no religious connotation, there are several rituals we engage in by participating in the event: sharing our costumes in the fashion show, preparing or experiencing the Haunted House or dancing to a gruesome and ghoulish soundtrack (thanks to the musical resourcefulness and DJ skills of our founding parent Adrian Poulsen!). The ancient history of the festival as well the institutional memory of the Halloween-Diwali event at Kairos adds a mood of social significance.
Our children look forward to the rituals and talk about them afterwards. The social rituals build a camaraderie among our community. I hope you share my sense of a community feeling on Tuesday night. Our children standing in a circle in the darkness, each with their lit lanterns (into which they each have poured much of their creative juices into its design and construction) and then singing a solemn song together, felt like an exquisite moment of solemn reverence for Kairos, something to grow and refine each year. The ritual of the lanterns gave our children and their families a sense of belonging, such a primal need for any human being (even more primal than the need for self-esteem or self-actualization according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs).
There is the additional benefit that Halloween invites children to confront their fears. To begin with, it is often difficult in our society to admit one is scared about something, but here fear is shared and celebrated. Suppressed fears are thus externalized, thereby easier to talk about, and potentially to be overcome.
In Jungian terminology, our fears tends to be shadow. They live in us, but because they are hidden they are likely to be expressed covertly in unhealthy and unconscious ways. This can become an in-grained habit by adulthood, so the more we are able to bring our shadow tendencies into the light of day through the process of our growing up, we will be healthier, maturer wiser adults. Halloween is a beautiful opportunity to engage in this long-term project.
Other festivals at Kairos could potentially carry other kinds of psychological significance. While Halloween-Diwali might symbolize fear and transformation, our Kairos Olympics tends to celebrate one’s aspirations for physical and personal mastery and Holi-Purim might represent joy and beauty. Perhaps participating in Mandela Day initiatives symbolism justice, political awareness and civic participation, and other events in the calendar could represent other aspects of our souls — without however being dogmatic or religious about the rituals.
In summary, Tuesday night achieved a beautiful balance between secular reverence and mischievous fun. Without dogma there were moments of solemnity, and without the imposition of strict discipline our children were respectful and kind. There was the psychological significance of inviting our children potentially confronting their fears, in contrast to other such aspects of other events in our calendar. And by celebrating together our community was affirmed. I am so grateful to be a member of a community in which my family and I can find a sense of belonging, and thus an emotional home.
Your (scarier than usual) headmonster