May 8, 2021

Chasing witches

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village-halloween-parade-2016-11_zpsmqzau6nmChasing the witches around the globe before All Saints Day

By Jean H Charles From Caribbean News Now

In the dark day of ages, God was confronted by an angel named Satan, who took the position he should no more in the business of honoring the Maker, pretending he can himself be God. He organized a group of angels to fight the good ones so as to replace God. Under the command of St Michael, helped by St Gabriel and St Raphael, the good angels were sent to fight the demon and his followers.

God won the battle and Satan and his angels were ordered out of heaven, where they now spend their time torturing men on earth with promises and anguishes. To thank the good angels, God suggested to the Pope on earth that November 1st should become the day to honor all the saints who remain faithful to the one and only God.

On the night of October 31, the citizens on earth, especially the Catholic ones, organize a macabre parade to chase the witches from their lives in preparation of All Saints Day on November 1. I spent my witch day in New York City this year, what a treat! As soon as the sun set, mothers and fathers with children in hand dressed in all types of witch costumes go door to door for trick or treat.

My trick or treat extravaganza occurred along the corridor of Roosevelt Avenue in the catchment areas of Jackson Heights and Flushing, where the entire world meets. That is where the New York melting pot is stewed at its best. A former Irish/Italian neighborhood transformed entirely into Latino of all nations mixed with Chinese concentrated at the end of the corridor in Flushing.

It is refreshing to see how that American tradition is totally immersed in these newcomers’ ethos, preparing the young children of all races to become truly American. I took the subway towards the parade that started in the Greenwich Village section of New York towards midtown Manhattan. I encountered on the train some companions dressed as a nun and priest; on the platform there was a preacher warning this is a demonic fiesta and we should all repent!

The atmosphere was festive like a New Year’s Eve night; grown up men and women dressed up in all types of fantasy costumes ready to exhibit for the crowd at the parade, which was immense. I was wondering how I could see to report accurately. My good angel whispered in my ear, show the cops your press credentials and, voila, I was in, like an official enjoying the best view of the parade.

Eat your heart out Rio, Brooklyn or Port of Spain; Greenwich Village has the best carnival in the whole world. Albeit at night it could not be seen from the moon, there were hundreds and hundreds of parades, one more colorful and funnier than the other. The New York police department was in full force, helping to maintain a crowd in perfect order. I left the parade like a happy child that went to trick or treat and came back with a bag filled with rare chocolate candies.

If on October 31 or Halloween, New York City is the venue, I would fly to Haiti for the November 1 fiesta, where in my hometown of Grand River, the tradition is polished as a homecoming that is stronger than anywhere else in the island. The nomadic people of the town know their dead ones will not appreciate it if they do not return home to clean their thumb and offer mass and food to the poor for the rest of their souls. While the day is filled with family recollection, the night is reserved for debaucheries mixed with voodoo rituals in the cemetery and in the plaza.

The biggest bands of the country are there to partake in the event until early morning.

With the magic of money and the pre-arranged airline ticket, you could fly to Mexico on November 2, the Day of the Dead, to plunge into the sugar skull ritual tradition.

As in Haiti, the Mexicans have blended an old Indian practice with a Catholic rite. Skulls are made with sugar, a buffet is prepared at home where all the sweets are exposed for the dead ones to come and enjoy with the living for one day. In the afternoon, the debauchery is brought to the cemetery, where a full fiesta is in order, playing cards, guitar playing, dancing and eating to honor and pray to the dead so the next year will be, if not great, but peaceful.

The entire Catholic world maintains the tradition of honoring the dead on November 2 but the strongest manifestations are in Manhattan, New York; Grand River, Haiti; and Mexico City, Mexico. Here am I, Mexico, waiting for an invitation to spend the Day of the Dead with you, next year and reporting from there!

IMAGE: Halloween Parade 2016 in Greenwich Village, New York. Photos: Tamara B Hayes

Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD is a regular contributor to the Caribbean News Now opinion pages and was a presidential candidate in this election in Haiti. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed at Caribbean News Now/Haiti

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