Halloween Redux

I related a few weeks ago how I had responded to an acquaintance’s worry over Halloween and the appropriate Christian response to it.   In light of this, I found this short article interesting as an indication of how other Christians might view Halloween festivities. 

Based on the article, I’m not sure what the real emphasis ought to be.  Is it the fact that people are indulging in Halloween activities, or the fact that they aren’t indulging in All Saints Day activities?  Is the emphasis on unhealthy or macabre elements in Halloween customs, or Halloween itself?  If people were dressing up as less macabre or unsavory creatures, would Halloween be more acceptable? 

I think it rather ironic that Father Canals is unhappy on the celebration of death rather than life (an appropriate attitude), yet the practice of All Saints Day/All Souls Day is also a celebration of the dead – though certainly not simply as the dead, but as saints in Christ.  Both Halloween and All Saints Day focus on death – Halloween at times in a glorification or spookification of death-bringing entities and bogeymen, All Saints Day in remembering friends and family and all those who have died in the faith.  Both Halloween and All Saints Day also provide an emphasis on the afterlife – Halloween through the opportunity to emulate various forms of the undead, and All Saints Day with the very Biblical and Christian call to remember that the dead in Christ are not dead.  Death is not the end.  The Bible and Christianity make it clear that our fate after death is not to be an animated pile of bones, or a meandering zombie or other undead creature.  We have a destination, a life, that will follow at some point after our death. 

Why are we praying for the dead, and how does “Christian piety” recommend this?  Do the dead need our prayers?  I guess that depends on  your ideas about how the afterlife works.  If loved ones are passing time in Purgatory, then prayers are very appropriate to speed their time there.  But if they aren’t, then prayers seem to be misdirected.  I agree completely that we ought to pray for families everywhere who deal with the grief of losing a loved one.  But more importantly, the Church needs to be providing some solid leadership and examples of how to celebrate that those who have died in the faith are now at peace. 

Ultimately, I have a problem with the Roman Catholic tradition of praying to and for the saints and the dead in general.  I also have trouble with generalizing the issues of a particular holiday.  The Christian celebration of Easter owes a great deal in terms of traditions (and even the name) to pagan influences – yet I don’t hear too many people decrying these elements of Easter (not that they shouldn’t mind you – just that they aren’t).  I think that people might be quick to argue that nobody really associates Easter bunnies and other frivolities and peripherals of Easter (or the name itself, even), with the pagan traditions they are rooted in.  I believe Christmas has some of the same issues.

I just think that the same argument *can* apply to Halloween as well.  I think it’s just the fact that the pagan roots of Halloween deal specifically with the dead that people are so skittish.

Granted – there are those who focus on the macabre elements of Halloween – revel in them perhaps.  And there are certainly those who see this as a holiday of import because of satanic and pagan associations.  These are bad things, obviously.  But – particularly for children – they are also far and away NOT the norm.  This article is a good reminder to me that parents need to stress to their children the reality of the Biblical perspective on life and death.  This needs to be done throughout the year, not just on liturgical dates dedicated to that purpose precisely because of their proximity to pagan celebrations and observances related to death. 

3 Responses to “Halloween Redux”

  1. Melani Says:

    Guess I should have read this first, before sending you that e-mail! LOL I love Halloween only because you can be someone else for a period of time and you can stay in character and for me it is fun, for the kids it is fun. Getting candy going door to door has been fun for the kids and I remember doing it as a child. Period. Nothing more, nothing less. I never have looked deep into the holiday, but that is just me!

  2. Paul Nelson Says:

    I think that you’re a very typical American in this regard – which is why I tend to disagree with Christians who get too worried about the pagan roots of the holiday.  I don’t think there’s any confusion in 99.9% of the kids’ or parents’ minds about what is going on when a child dresses up in a costume.  For the .01% that are concerned, or have reasons to be concerned, then it’s something they should definitely avoid!

  3. flowerbeauty Says:

    Interestingly enough

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