The Past, Present and Future of Halloween

Normally around this time of year, Americans would be gearing up for a night of chaperoning younger siblings around town, eating excessive amounts of chocolate and buying out the clearance candy from CVS on November 1st. I don’t really have to point out why things are a bit different this year. 
The night of October 31, 2020 will be one filled with college students sitting pathetically in their rooms, accompanied only by a pile of empty candy wrappers and too much free time. As such, take a moment with me to remember better times: Look at how Halloween developed into the modern holiday we know and love, and catch a glimpse into what it may be like in years to come. 
Between all of the holidays taking place around October 31 — El día de muertos, Halloween, All Souls Day —  it can get confusing to trace down where one holiday ends and the other begins. Though all three of these holidays have interconnected roots, most scholars agree that Halloween’s past is connected to a combination of ancient Celtic and Christian traditions. 
More than 2,000 years ago, when the Celts lived in modern day Ireland, the feast of Samhain (pronounced sow-win) marked the end of the harvest season as the community began preparations for the coming winter months. The symbolic “death” of a season and the reaping of crops prompted feasts and celebration, but also indicated that the space between the dead and the living was thinner than ever.

A Flavorful Celebration of Jewish Culinary Identities

Despite making up just about two percent of the U.S. population, Jews remain keepers of an incredibly varied culture. We see this first-hand in the wide range of Jewish identities which exist in America alone — an Israeli Jew may arrive in the U.S. cooking with chickpeas and pomegranates, only to balk at the copious amounts of “white food” which many Ashkenazi Jews consume. Likewise, latkes and gefilte fish may seem so intrinsically Jewish to these Eastern European Jewish communities that shunning them is to eschew Judaism entirely. Jewish culture is, therefore, dependent upon the interpreter’s own experiences, creating a collection of identities as varied as its people. Yet despite their differences, these groups unite themselves under the larger “Jewish” title, celebrating tradition and commitment to the community in similar ways: Through food.

WILK | HIST 2020: Unlearning American Lies

Before the whir of life-changing events and the unprecedented-ness that has characterized the past six months, I was bent over my notebook for Black Radical Tradition in the U.S., taught by Professor Russell Rickford, Africana and American Studies,  rushing to sloppily jot down his last sentence: “Americanism is ahistorical.”

More recently, sitting on my couch instead of a desk and staring not at slides but the rolling credits for Spike Lee’s most recent war drama, Da 5 Bloods, I heard an echo of Prof. Rickford in the back of my head. And since then, I’ve been reminded of those three words so often that I now hear them in my own voice, as I read people’s denialism about the United States’ militant capacity to conquer civilians. Specifically its own citizens. Over videos of federal agents deployed on the streets of New York, Portland and Chicago, Homeland Security Investigations officers brutalizing protestors and plainclothes cops snatching people into unmarked vans, outrage and shock have been weirdly focused on where this is happening, and whose citizens it’s happening to, rather than the simple fact that it’s happening. These reactions reveal a need to create distance between America and the evidence before us, and to pretend that distance is as geographical as it is ethical: “A little graffiti and some toppled statues and we turn into freaking [Al]Fallujah.

Patriotic Meals: Food as a Stepping-Stone Towards Liberation

Every Fourth of July, Americans are bombarded with advertisements about red and white products — it almost feels patriotic to spend money. Oftentimes, these companies advertise food sales — five dollar watermelon or hot dogs on a stars-and-stripes background — and imply that these items have some inherent patriotic identity. All-American men eat meat, a  Costco ad might urge you. Most of us don’t truly believe that we are performing our civic duty when we buy a hot dog; however, there was a time in American history when one’s diet was directly tied to their love and devotion — or lack thereof — to America. To understand American patriotism as it relates to food, we must go back to British Colonialism in the early 1600s.

Diaspora Cooking

With all the disheartening news, events that give you horrific flashbacks and the nagging feeling that little progress has been made, it’s very comforting to have a nice, hot meal. This Kenyan chicken curry is the product of Indian diaspora into east Africa. Like the ancestors of Black Americans, tens of thousands of Indians were brought to African colonies by the English as forced labor to build the Kenya-Uganda Railway. Many died and many left after construction, but once the railway was open, so was trade. Indian emigrants took root.

Cornell’s Land Grant Heritage: A Sinister Tradition?

almost 1 million acres of dispossessed American Indian land, sold to form the basis of Cornell’s endowment — a sum of almost $6 million by 1914, equivalent to $150 million today.
The sale of almost 1 million acres of dispossessed American Indian land formed the basis of Cornell’s endowment — a sum of almost $6 million by 1914, equivalent to $150 million today.