I’m conflicted when it comes to Halloween. Is it innocent fun or is it morbid, pagan, even evil?
I’m not going to ramble in this post. I simply want to throw out the question:
It’s fun. It’s time for kids:
Harvest time has been swallowed up into Halloween time to such an extent that we cannot separate the two. We carve Jack-o’-lanterns from pumpkins, eat candy corn, and celebrate the abundance and change of seasons with cider, hay rides, apple picking and such when we celebrate Halloween. It is about candy, fall festivals, carnivals, caramel apples, and pumpkin pie. So firstly, Halloween is about having fun and eating a lot of calories.
It is about death. Okay, fair enough:
I remember from History class that post-plague Europeans would keep human skulls in various places around the house. It was to remind them of the brevity and fragility of life. I think that 21st Century Americans have seen very little death on such a scale. We only see death as disconnected from real life, such as a violent crime, disease, or accident on TV or in a movie.
So, secondly, we are excited and curious about death. Simply tracing the roots of “Day of the Dead,” we can see that at least part of Halloween that intrigues us is our fascination with death.
It is also about less-than-innocent paganism:
The ancient Gaels believed that on October 31, Samhain, as it was referred to in Gaelic culture, (now known as Halloween), the boundary between the alive and the deceased dissolved, and the dead become dangerous for the living by causing problems such as sickness or damaged crops. The festivals would frequently involve bonfires, into which bones of slaughtered livestock were thrown. Costumes and masks were also worn at the festivals in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or placate them.
Therefore, thirdly, it is about dressing up, embracing the afterlife, the mystery, the fear, and the reality of supernatural being, ghouls, goblins, demons, witches, wizards, and zombies. The boys would vandalize and do mischief throughout the town while the girls did divination indoors.
Strong convictions: Melting like wax.
Each of us carry certain convictions about every holiday, Halloween not excluded. The true Catholic “Holy Day” is actually the morning after, on November 1st. To these folks, they may be torn between the innocent and not innocent aspects of Halloween. You may pass out candy just to be a good neighbor. Some, even more offended by the concept, simply turn out their patio lights or leave the house altogether.
Our convictions are shaped by our upbringing along with the reshaping of the cultural attitude, religious convictions, etc. to such matters. There are what seem to be aspects of innocence in the season that we embrace and certain other aspects that we ignore or leave out, like picking the nuts out of our brownies. We create a holiday from tradition + our own custom design to = our version of Halloween–one that we can be comfortable sharing with our kids.
Truly informed individuals know where they stand on the issue and know why. I’m wondering what some of you would like to share on the matter . . .