Every October, around Halloween, my cravings for chocolate-covered almonds intensify immensely. They happen to be an integral part of my childhood memory growing up as a Pakistani in Canada.
Chili Mili (yes I haven’t forgotten my Pakistani snacks) and chocolate-covered almonds appeal to the little girl in me with equal nostalgic value.
The first time I volunteered to sell boxes of chocolate-covered almonds door-to-door was to raise money. I was an eager first grader trying to be like the “big kids”. The fifth and sixth graders that could leave their homes unaccompanied by an adult to trick-or-treat, so long as they traveled in a group. In retrospect, I did not quite understand what I was raising money for. Nor why adults were so content sending children to the homes of strangers to ask for donations. However, I have since then come to associate the small bites of festivity that come in the form of chocolate-covered almonds with the beginning of holiday season.
A little early I admit but October is when charity drives at elementary schools begin. Delivering relief to those in need, for the holiday in time. The child in me forever associates the appearance of young students selling chocolate-covered almonds with the inevitable, delicious approach of Halloween. For me it marks the subsequent start of a snowy, Canadian winter.
October is also the month during which school work becomes challenging and requires deep engagement.
This not only applies to elementary school students, but to university students as well. October also marks the beginning of the third quarter of the fiscal year and is a busy time for businesses. Over the years, candy and Halloween have functioned as reliefs for me. Halloween serves as an excuse to indulge my sweet tooth and share in celebrations with my neighbors and community members. It allows me to recuperate from the taxing increase in workloads that often mark the shift from the relative ease of summer, to the requirements of productivity at school and work in the fall.
Muslim organisations, every October protest against these celebrations. According to these groups, Halloween by virtue descends from Pagan worshipers under the Christian traditional influence. Hence, it is deemed un-Islamic.
According to the religious groups, participation in Halloween-related jollification is effectively, shirk.
As somebody who grew up connecting with classmates and coworkers over a shared joy found during Halloween. Accusations of such extreme classification of mere dress-up games and exchange of candy has always rattled me. The celebration that I would like to fully enjoy is left pale for me each year. As participation provokes a thorough investigation of my faith by members of my community.
My assurance to all those concerned, that in no shape, way or form is anyone trying to conjure or communicate with the dead. Halloween, regardless of what the pamphlet handed out to you at the corner masjid might compel you to believe. There is no Halloween activity that deifies or promotes the worship of anyone other than Allah. Classification of the celebration of Halloween as shirk is unfounded, in my opinion. Stories of the day do not account for the communal and social change that affect the evolution of the festival.
Moreover, no harm comes from sharing in the joy of those around you. Nothing is lost in playing pretend for a few hours. Nor is faith threatened in giving the neighbourhood kids a reason to come together to exercise their imaginations and enjoying some good ol’ chocolate-covered almonds.