Monday, October 29, 2007

Halloween

So, I guess I'll have to show my true colors... I'm a Halloween Grinch. You know the kind; the ones that are out to spoil everyone's fun.

But I'm not furry and green and rarely sneer. That kind of Grinch fits right in at Halloween.

Instead, I'm the kind of Grinch that stands out like a sore thumb this time of year in most gatherings; I have little homemade feather wings, and a foil pipecleaner halo... and I pass out holy cards.

Almost every holiday has its controversy, I'm afraid. Except maybe St. Patrick's Day ... which... I guess you could object to as it's become just an excuse to go to an Irish pub and sample too much Guinness...

Or, well, there is St. Valentine's Day. But, I guess you could object to that feast day evolving into an excuse to flirt, couldn't you? I can't deny these are both abuses I'm afraid I may have been guilty of in the past, myself. Let's face it, it's just human nature to want to celebrate.

The Church in its wisdom has always understood this. In a nutshell, we need to relieve stress with periodic partying. And, with this need in mind, when they came to a new culture to teach and convert, missionaries strove to take native celebrations and convert their meanings and subtly adapt their trappings to Christian themes. They purposely placed Church holidays around the approximate times of important events in the life of Christ, but also to coincide with nonchristian celebrations they wished to replace. And they were almost universally successful in this quest.

The institution of the Feast of All Hallows, or All Saints,was an attempt to replace the Roman feast of the dead, Feralia. But, the customs most commonly associated with the celebration of this holiday in the modern world are Gaelic in nature, a passdown from the druids.

Not a wholesome lot, the druids.
I think most of us Catholic moms do try to downplay the materialistic trappings that have come to smother the real meanings of each of our Catholic holidays ~ holy days. But, Halloween may be the one that is hardest to overcome. Out of all of the holidays, I think Hallween has reverted most to its pagan beginnings. And, while most of the holidays have caved into crass commercialization and saecularization to some extent or another, none of them has fallen into such an unwholesome set of new traditions, as Halloween has. Let's face it, much of it is downright demonic, and unapologetically so. But, we excuse it because it's an American tradition, and, well, we did it when we were kids, and we turned out alright...

And, seriously, if we don't dress our children as witches or devils, it should be alright, shouldn't it?

Well, if the Church thought it was OK, I don't think they would have replaced the Feast of the Dead with something as purposely full of joy as the Feast of All Saints, for one thing. I think the popes purposely picked something as polar opposite these particular pagan celebrations as they could in this instance. And with good reason.

Not every child will be negatively affected by a few days' journey into a dark world, perhaps. But what about the ones who will be? Highly sensitive children are not even the ones that are most at risk here, but children who might have kindled an unhealthy interest in dark matters, and, Heaven forbid, eventually come to experiment with the occult. You don't think this could happen to your child? Read the statistics on the rise in numbers of teens joining the wicca cult just since the JK Rowlings books have been published. The devil is a busy little loser. He'll use every opportunity he can get.

Evil matters should not be taken lightly. And that is exactly the purpose of Halloween as it's practiced today. "Innocent" fun.... dabbling in evil matters. Your sweet little girl may be dressed up like a princess, but she's walking on the same sidewalk with "witches" and "ghouls" and "ax murderers."

Why glorify this kind of thing? At best, it's just a big, ugly distraction from a far better celebration. One that they can still dress up for. And the costume thing may even be beside the point, because as we all know, Halloween is really all about the candy.

It's not hard for any parish, or group of families, or just a single family to whip up a night of fun, with candy and games, in celebration of the Feast of All Saints. Seriously. The amazingly talented and energetic women I see in the wide world of Catholics are more than up to the task. Many of us already do this annually.

Now, can rejecting the Trick or Treat scene make you an oddball in your neighborhood? Well, sure, it may very well. Isn't that great? We should be oddballs in this world, for goodness sake! If you're not an oddball in this saecular humanistic society, you're not living your faith, plain and simple. Why shouldn't our children learn this?

The tradition of celebrating the saints on this day instead of following in the path of the rest of the world is a real life example to your children of your priorities as a family of God.

And good grief, it's not like an All Saints' Day Party is a sacrifice! You can make it just as much fun, more fun, we think, than the typical Halloween outing! But, instead of being about darkness, it's all about light. And it's in the safety of your church hall or someone's home, where I think most of us parents would rather the children be, anyway.

You, too, can be one of those "obsessive Catholics."

Just like the saints.
(Aw, come on! It's fun!)
Here are some great ideas for All Saints' Day Parties from: The Domestic Church, Catholic Culture.com , Women for Faith and Family, and Catholic Parenting

9 comments:

Therese said...

Wow. What a great post. Over here in Australia we don't have trick or treat. I have been to a couple of haloween parties and they have all been about ghosts and the dark side too.

Our parish church is All Saints and we are having a celebration this Friday with Mass and a shared tea.

Theresa said...

I didn't know it was that bad!

Raulito said...

Excellent post! My own jack-o-lantern is two sizes too small! ;-)

Chelsea Rae said...

That was a fantastic post! Mary isn't old enough for me to worry about it yet but we will most definitely not be celebrating Halloween. I love the idea of an All Saints Day party!

T with Honey said...

Our church did exactly what you recommend this year. They had a Holy-ween party where everyone was encouraged to dress up as a saint. It was great because we could attend and I didn't have to worry about my toddler getting scared because of the older kids' costumes.

Matilda said...

As I said, we have been doing an All Saints Party for as long as the children can remember and it is a blast! Costumes, candy, games and good food. Who wouldn't prefer that to walking in the dark and knocking on doors?

I feel for those families who have already started that tradition who might want to get out of it because it can be very appealing for children. Getting to go out after dark, knocking on doors, the feeling of independence and "rule breaking" if you will. Those are some of the reasons we were uncomfortable with the idea to begin with.

I do usually leave some candy on the front porch mostly to keep them from ringing the doorbell (it's hard to pretend you aren't home when there is a party going on) but maybe this year, I will make a very obvious Happy All Saints Eve sign. I have done it in the past, but didn't think it made much of a difference. If we weren't having a party, I would be tempted to pass out holy cards like you.

P.S. A friend of mine who lived in the Bible Belt wrapped her candy in a piece of paper with a little Catholic history of All Hallows Eve. Maybe there is time to fire up the printer.

Lisa said...

Therese: Lucky you to not have this problem to contend with in Australia

Raulito: +gg+ Too funny! &:o)

Chelsea rae: It IS so much easier to start out without the expectation of trick or treating. We've never done it, so didn't have to break the habit! Bless you and pretty little Mary!

"T": We've had the blessing of having annual All STs Day parties all our family life, and are so grateful.

Matilda: yours was such an excellent post it got me composing one in my head about our reasoning, too,as soon as I read it! I LOVE the idea of wrapping candy in Catholic history! We may have to do this!

Meredith said...

Great post, I too am a scrooge, it's so hard to do the begging for treats thing. We like to have a All Hallows Eve carnival of sorts and then we celebrate All Saints with a lovely party with dress-up and all!

SuzyQ said...

Great post!
"And, while most of the holidays have caved into crass commercialization and saecularization to some extent or another, none of them has fallen into such an unwholesome set of new traditions, as Halloween has."

It's such a shame isn't it!