This week on CAPC I’ve asked some of our staff writers to contribute their thoughts about Halloween — and by extension All Saints and All Souls Day. Many Catholic parents are torn about Halloween. Should we participate? Is Halloween intrinsically evil? What’s with the ghosts and witches? Where does all this stuff come from? All week I’ll be posting CAPC staff’s contributions and responses to these questions.
Personally, I have very mixed feelings about Halloween. I love the harvest atmosphere of many Halloween parties and events, but the whole sub-culture around Halloween seems to become increasingly dark each year. A few years ago I want into a Halloween costume shop to get my daughter a Dorothy costume and I saw mechanical zombie babies with blood oozing from their eyes. Why? Not funny or interesting; just scary and disturbing.
But my kids like to play make believe and there is something special about Halloween in my neighborhood. I don’t want my kids to miss out on that. So we trick or treat every year. We even dress our dog up in a costume and take her trick or treating with us. There is nothing scary or disturbing about a Labradoodle in a bumble bee costume! (At least not to humans . . . I’m not sure what Labradoodles think of this arrangement.) This year my sister and her family are coming to stay overnight on Halloween and we’re all going trick-or-treating together. Cousins, candy, cocoa, and a sleepover all in one night!
As a few of our contributors will explain this week, Halloween has Catholic roots and even some of the scary stuff makes sense when you learn the history of the day. Did you know that ghosts first became associated with Halloween in Ireland because they believed that if somebody died one year and you held a grudge against him, then the next year he would appear to you on the night before All Saints: that’s right, All Hallows Eve or Halloween. Skeletons and skulls give me the creeps and I assumed they were rooted in the occult, but guess what? Many Catholic countries like Mexico use symbols of death like skulls on All Souls Day to remind them of death and those who have died.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I don’t want to think about the inevitability of death. I’m okay with cute pumpkins and bumble bee costumes because they don’t challenge my comfort zone. Perhaps I want to hold on to some illusion that I will always be okay. I don’t want ghosts, witches, or devils decorating my house because I don’t want to invite confusion in my children’s minds about these things, but I am beginning to see that I shouldn’t automatically raise a brow when a Christian lets her child child dress as a ghost or when they put skull candles on their dinner tables.
I’m considering these things and I’m looking forward to reading what our other moms have to say this week. I think my observation about American culture around Halloween will still hold at the end of the week: why are Americans so obsessed with vampires, zombies, and the undead? It’s one thing to recognize the inevitability of death on the Day of the Dead and another to idolize demons and evil creatures, to think they are even sexy. That’s just so messed up. I think on some level the young people who are caught up in these things know that there is something more beyond this life, that it is only one short chapter in a journey and a sliver of some greater truth. It’s unfortunate they are not given the freedom to surrender to the whole truth and promise of salvation and God’s love. Now that’s really scary.