|Pumpkins & Candy - Traditional Halloween Fun|
Members of the "love it" camp tend to make these arguments:
- The kids enjoy it, and I don't want to take their fun away.
- What's wrong with enjoying an American tradition?
- Dressing up and eating candy - what's not to like?
- This was the traditional way for Christians of the British Isles to denounce the Evil One, by pretending to "scare him away" on the Eve of All Saints Day (All Hallow's Eve)
- What's wrong with dressing up as a Princess or a Fireman?
In response to the "love it" arguments, I think: If something is good, I want to do it. But I don't want to just "go with the flow" to fit into our culture if something is not good. I'm skeptical of the "Godly origins" argument for the holiday - it just doesn't seem consistent with the general aura of the day (or, month, really - since the observations start more than a month in advance nowadays). We can dress up and eat candy without using this for an excuse.
And, as for the Princess and Fireman, I've noticed that these disappear in very early childhood to be replaced by things less innocent. They're rather like "gateway" costumes.
Members of the "hate it" camp tend to make these arguments:
- Halloween has evil origins.
- Creepy & Scary aren't Christian virtues.
- Too much candy rots kids teeth out, and causes other health problems.
And, I'm much less concerned about the history of Halloween than about the current practice.
Besides that, I let my kid eat more sugar than she should at Christmas, too. If sugar were the only issue, I wouldn't worry about it.
I've never been really comfortable with either set of arguments, to be honest.
I dislike Halloween, but I've never been able to put my finger on why well enough to explain it to my little one. I don't want to give her nightmares by trying to explain to her about all the creepy stuff other people do on this holiday. And, I think the Bible clearly instructs us NOT to give a lot of attention to wrongdoing (Luke 10:20), nor to try to oppose the Evil One by ourselves, but to depend on the Lord to do so (Jude 1:9-10).
As C.S. Lewis said so profoundly in the Preface to The Screwtape Letters,
"There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the
devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to
feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally
pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same
So, while I always want to avoid what is evil, I also do not wish to give that evil undue attention, nor to make my daughter fear what Christ has already defeated for her (Matthew 10:28).
A couple of years ago, my conversation with my little daughter went something like this:
"Mom, why don't we celebrate Halloween? I like playing dress up and eating candy."
"Okay, let me explain it like this, honey, what do we celebrate on Christmas?"
"The Birth of Jesus"
"What do we celebrate on Pascha (Easter)?"
"The Resurrection of Jesus."
"And, what do people celebrate on Halloween, I've never told you, but can you figure it out?"
Well, that should probably be enough to explain it. But, it was always more of a niggling feeling than something I could put into words. Until this year, that is.
This year, we have had the uniquely Christian experience of saying goodbye to a beloved devout Christian friend on his way from this life into Eternal Life. He prepared for his journey by participating in the Sacraments of the Church. As we lived this experience with him and his family, we touched the miracle of Jesus' Victory over Death. We said "Goodbye" not forever, but until we could meet again. We see our friend's body as Sacred - it will rise again at the Last Day, as the Scriptures say. We said prayers for him, his body was anointed, we made our Cross before his casket, we kissed his body, we kissed the Icon of the Resurrection, and we interred his body in the earth, like a seed awaiting Spring. Although every moment was filled with grief for our loss of him, every moment was also Holy, Sacred, a preparation for Eternity with Christ.
The following day, I went to the grocery store and I was slapped in the face with what Halloween really is. There, on prominent display, was a creepy model of a skeleton of a human being with distorted features, covered in cobwebs. The plastic image did not remind us that this was the body of a human being, meant to be reunited with Christ at the Last Day, a seed to be planted in the earth and one day to be united with Christ. Instead, it was made to look loathsome, creepy, scary - horrifying. Not at all consistent with the Christian view of the reality of death.
And then, I realized the true function of Halloween in our culture.
The function of this so-called "holiday" (regardless of historical facts about its origin) is to make human beings repulsed and terrified at the idea of death and entering Eternity. And, in fact, to focus so much on either thinking about their fear of death, or refusing to think about death at all, that they completely fail to prepare for eternity. It is easy to notice on a moment's reflection that nearly every Halloween image is a distorted image of death - a lie about death.
Rather like someone who is terrified of flying, and must move to move to a new country, they could easily spend so much time thinking of their fear of the flight, that they completely forget to prepare to pack the right things in their suitcase, or give proper care to arranging for a place to stay upon arrival.
The Saints of the Church tell us "Remember Death" which is to say, keep our eyes on being properly prepared to enter an Eternity with God.
But, Halloween teaches us to be so frightened and repulsed that we avoid thinking about death at all costs. We cannot prepare for what we do not think about.
And, although I always hear people say, "It's just make-believe" the reality is that the fear that is engendered in human hearts through make believe, or fiction, often has just as strong an effect on the human psyche as does reality. We all know countless people who have developed strong fears by watching "horror movies." And, once those fears are planted in us, especially in childhood, but also in adulthood, they are incredibly difficult to overcome.
Even though the Evil One has been defeated by Christ's Death on the Cross, WE can choose live as if that defeat had never happened, to give the Evil One a place that is not his, by cowering and pretending he has a power he does not have.
Instead, we should see Death as what it is, now that it has been defeated by Christ. It is the door that opens when we enter Eternity. We need to live our lives preparing to walk through that door and enter a Holy, Eternal Life with Christ, rather than imagining that it is too scary to think about.
So, whatever your decision about whether your kids dress up as Princesses and Firemen and eat Candy the neighbors give them - or don't - keep your focus on the reality. Be aware of the effect that the images of this season can have on the human psyche.
Eternity is what comes next. We're all going to "walk through that door" one day, if Christ should tarry.
Let's focus on being prepared, and as the Saints advise "Remember Death."
Here's a video I really like - perhaps you'll enjoy it too (it's only about 5 minutes.)
This is being shared at
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