Halloweentown’s History Lesson

Watching Disney Channel during the Zoog era taught our tweenage selves some important lessons. We went to the moon in 1969. Lizzie and Gordo were destined. Blogs, even ones about Weird stuff, can help you find validation. The future will be filled with expressions like “zetus lapetus” and “lunarious.”

Most of us barely noticed the real lessons underneath the fun stories and brightly-colored wardrobes. Families matter, friends are important, believe in yourself, reach for the stars.

Halloweentown featured a happy world of friendly creatures, but all four movies carried the theme of acceptance. (Yes there were four – I know people like to forget about the last two.) Witches Marnie Piper and grandmother Aggie Cromwell often speak about uniting the worlds after centuries of judgment on both sides. The unexpected topic deepened a light holiday movie and pushed it into “Legendary DCOM” status.

It also reinforced the lesson that you should never replace the main character, one we previously learned in season three of So Weird. But anyway.

I never realized until recently that Halloweentown most likely paid tribute to the true origins of Halloween. The basic story: A thousand years ago, the  Celtic people created Samhain to celebrate the harvest. They also believed that spirits could mingle with the living as fall turned into winter. Christians arrived and, instead of outlawing Samhain, converted it into All Saints Day/All Hallows. Celtic people still celebrated the night before, aka, All Hallows Eve. Certain traditions carried over or were added by Christian influence.

It sounded familiar. Then I remembered.

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“The people who started your Halloween just imitated our traditions.”

Aggie told almost the same story in Halloweentown: A long time ago, the “Dark Times,” humans and creatures lived together. She says “humans feared us and wanted to destroy us,” so creatures were terrible to humans in return. Eventually creatures formed their own dimension where they could live in peace.

(Does it bother anyone else that Aggie tells this story in such an upbeat manner? She relates her town’s tormented history without expressing any emotion.)

Halloweentown events match up to the real story. The period where humans and creatures lived together could refer to Samhain, then when Christians outlawed the supernatural, they fled. Both the first and second movie stress that humans imitate creatures on Halloween, which is how trick-or-treating started. Those who celebrated placed food out for the spirits, then later on, people dressed like the spirits to “trick-or-treat.” Traditional costumes such as ghosts and witches are still popular to this day. In the series, creatures interpret this as humans mocking them. The timeline even fits because in the fourth movie it’s stated that Halloweentown will be a thousand years old.

halloweentown2

“Mortal see, mortal do.”

I love that a movie called “Halloweentown” acknowledged the real origins of Halloween. Thinking about it now, I wonder if that’s why Halloweentown 4 comes across as a pale imitation of the first three. (Aside from recasting Marnie.) While there’s mention of witches having power over other creatures, the movie lacks the real theme of uniting the two worlds. It doesn’t seem right that “New Marnie” is so quick to ditch her home world after working so hard to find acceptance there.

But that’s irrelevant ten years after the fourth movie (hurts, doesn’t it?). Despite how the series ended, Halloweentown continues to represent the holiday spirit every year.

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