I have never really understood the attraction or meaning of the celebration known as Halloween. It has always puzzled me why an activity directed towards children on one hand is filled with such scary images like ghosts, skeletons, ghouls, demons, witches and the like.
What is it, exactly, that Halloween is celebrating? I have read about the fact that it is the night before a holy Catholic church celebration, that being All Saints Day, a time when all the saints of the church are honoured and prayed for. People from the church used to go door to door asking for little cakes in exchange for promising to pray for the dead members of the household. While I see how the new practice of ‘trick or treat-ing’ could stem from this historical event, I can’t comprehend the correlation between children being sent out in the neighbourhood to collect treats (from strangers!!), using the threat of pranking people as the enticement to surrender lollies.
For many years, it wasn’t such a big deal here. It was just something that Americans did, and we observed from afar through the medium of television shows. Over the past fifteen years I would say that the momentum has slowly been gathering to the point where now the retailers have been promoting decorations for the home, costumes for all ages and special Halloween bags of bulk confectionary amid cobwebs, skulls and pitchforks. The imagery we are being bombarded with is being driven by the desire to ‘cash in’ without much discernment to a potential negative impact on the young minds in our community.
I have heard about a different type of Halloween celebration that happens in neighbourhoods and communities, often in the US, where families gather together and dress in less horror-themed costumes and more popular icons or word play. They share the experience as a melting pot of people who build connections around this ‘holiday’ and deepen their relationships with people. This kind of occasion has many layers of benefit within our communities that I would be happy to explore the positive impact this could potentially have. We seem to only have the more gruesome version of this event and that drives my apprehension to participate.
You see, while I am more than happy to promote and participate in a fun, fancy dress event, what Halloween boils down to is a celebration of death and the dead. Usually death is something that brings heartbreak and sorrow, and yet we set out to trivialise it with costumes and sugary treats. It is a dubious holiday with sinister undertones and I have never been comfortable with giving it any recognition in my home and family. The bible refers to us need to be ‘children of light’ (John chapter 12 verse 36) and a lot of the celebration on October 31st revolves almost solely around darkness.
You may have noticed I feel quite passionate about this subject, based on my concern that we can tend to participate in events because everyone else is doing it, and it’s a bit of harmless fun. On this occasion, I do encourage you to think a little deeper and broader about what Halloween is, and what it glorifies. I choose light. I hope you will too.