Today is All Hallows Eve, known popularly as Halloween. Yes, it is that dreaded time when witches cackle while flying on their brooms, black cats cross your path just to damn you to years of bad luck, and neo-pagan college students think they really do have magic powers, confusing their real lives with the latest Final Fantasy game. Well at least that homemade oregano-thyme “magic” concoction is good for circulation! Of course it can’t all be scary. Halloween has its humorous aspects, like the local “hell houses” some churches put on.
In all seriousness, Halloween is always a fun time for me. If anything, my house now has a calming orange glow to it at night thanks to my electric Jack O’Lantern and orange lights on my door. My coffee has that Pumpkin Pie taste, since modern science can now put Pumpkin Pie into coffee creamer. And my kids at school are extra attentive thanks to the anticipation of sweet, sweet sugar running through their veins after trick-or-treat tonight. However, these reasons are not the main reason I like Halloween. Many people don’t know it, but Halloween is actually a Christian holiday. Halloween is the evening before All Saints Day, when we celebrate Christian saints, known and unknown. It is a perfect time to teach kids about the saints, and even let them dress up as one. Dressing up as the martyrs is the most fun! What kid wouldn’t want to walk around as St. Sebastian with a host of fake arrows stabbing his chest as fake blood stains cover the tunic? Well, I would like it! It is a perfect time to visit a cemetery, have a picnic there, and pray for the souls of the departed there. I don’t think this sounds morbid at all. Our culture’s distaste of anything related to death means that we often fail to appreciate and remember our departed relatives. There are plenty of Halloween Prayers and All Saints Day Prayers to avail ourselves of. All in all, this day is a chance to do quite a lot of Christian things.
I know, “Halloween is pagan.” “It should be called Helloween.” Yes, some customs associated with Halloween have pagan origins, like that wedding ring you are wearing and that day of the week you scheduled a meeting on. But nowadays, for most people, these customs are harmless. Sure some pagans really play up Halloween for their non-Christian purposes, but technically they do their non-Christian things everyday of the year, and my carving a Jack O’Lantern has nothing to do with whatever they were originally used for. I think they were used for scaring off spirits. Mine has such a cheesy smile it wouldn’t even scare away a toddler! Well maybe a really wimpy toddler…
Now this is not to say certain practices like Tarot Cards, divination, etc, are not harmful. From a Catholic and Orthodox perspective, these are not “harmless” fun, but dabbling in forbidden paganism. We have to have balance here. You have to go with your conscience and Catholic Teaching. However, if you confess to father that you bobbed for apples and are worried about the state of your soul, you may encounter shocked silence on the other side of the screen.
Photos by David Bennett