We’re back from the second leg of the media tour. After Wisconsin, we flew to Oklahoma to meet our newest grandbaby. We also got to know Scott and Kimberly’s next-to-youngest, much better. What a firecracker! But as I watched my innocent grandchildren anticipate Halloween with delight, I began to think about how things have changed.
I admit it. It’s true. I hate Halloween.
More accurately, I hate what Halloween has become.
It started as a pagan festival where the dead were thought to walk the earth on the night between summer and winter. . .the season of death. It has it’s roots in Celtic rituals. The practices on that night were truly frightening.
In about 600 AD, the Catholic Church decided that the lands conquered by the Romans, ie Ireland, ought not to be mixing their pagan superstitions with their Christian practices, so the pope made the day after the Celtic holiday Samhain, (pronounced So-in) All Saints Day. It was a day when Christians were to honor all saints and martyrs. So observers were to dress as angels and saints instead of animals and demons. They urged celebrations like night masses and the sharing of food. As they walked the streets on the eve of the hallowed day, beggars would ask for money in exchange for the prayers for the Christian’s dead ancestors. It was called “Going a-souling”
Well, the eve of the hallowed All Saints Day became known as Hallowed Eve and then Hallowe’en and finally Halloween.
It wasn’t until Protestant Americans, objecting to the Catholic influence over the holiday and still honoring their Celtic roots began to consciously promote the celebration as a family holiday and to formalize the practice of Trick or Treating. It seems to have begun in the 1930’s. But trick or treating was mainly organized as local governments and churches tried to stem the throwback behavior of demons vandalizing and making mischief and blaming it on ghosts.
For most of my childhood, Halloween was right up there with Easter in my favor, both right behind Christmas. Sometimes I think it competed with the BIG Holiday.
We’d throw together some sort of costume and traipse up and down the unlit country roads, stopping now and then at a house. The payoff was often generous, since the houses were so far apart. I remember the year my sister Mary went as a one-legged hobo. She put both her legs in one pant leg of my Dad’s britches and hobbled around on a homemade crutch. After a half mile of hobbling, her armpits were so sore and she was so exhausted that we circled her with ghostly sheets of our costumes while she put the pants on correctly, right in the middle of Pleasant Valley Rd.
One house, the Jericoviches, (I know it’s not spelled right, but I have no memory of the proper way) was at the top of a very steep, very dark lane. I have no doubt that their views were spectacular, but it took a bit of courage to climb that road, guided mostly by the feel of the pavement underfoot on Halloween night.
But my sister Mary, our friend Jeannie and I always did it. For our trouble, we received an entire FULL SIZED Baby Ruth AND a Butterfinger: Precious booty for our sugar-deprived appetites. Sometimes their daughter, Gigi, would join us in the rest of our rounds.
Alas. Such adventures are impossible now. The monsters are real and only a fool lets their children roam at night unattended.
In many parts of the country, Halloween has reverted from the whitewashed version of the American 1930’s to the dark Celtic rituals of Samhain. Even adults dress in gruesome costumes and seem, if only for one night, to celebrate and embrace evil. Death is portrayed, not as a sacred passing through the veil of mortality into the loving arms of God, but as a hideous, gruesome, terrifying event.
What if the Savior returns on Halloween night instead of Superbowl Sunday, like my Dad used to predict? If we would be embarrassed, then why not avoid that aspect of the mutilated holiday?
What would happen if instead of celebrating evil and promoting terror of death, we instead honored All Saints Day by finding creative ways to serve and love and enjoy our neighbors? Congratulations to those who can have fun and share without the element of superstition or celebration of evil! Perhaps we CAN bring back the good ol’ days of fun without real fear. Traditions change only when we decide to change them!
Party hearty and wholesomely? Why not?
Two Harry Potters and one cute witch. Handsome Scott looks a lot like me, I think.
New baby Rachel is taking a snooze on her pretty Mama’s chest. We had a fun visit!