All Hallows Eve

The Christian reaction to Halloween varies all over the map. It is basically a celebration of the dead, a pagan holiday that got Christian trappings and was dressed up as the vigil (eve) for All Saints’ Day, November 1. As a “holy day of obligation”, this is a biggie for faithful Catholics.

Hence, of course, Halloween, “hallow” being what we old guys know to mean “sacred” or “venerated.” As in, “hallowed by thy name…” No, not “hollowed,” although that’s what I thought it meant when I was a little younger.

All Hallows Day is not to be confused with All Souls Day, normally celebrated the very next day, November 2. This is merely a “feast.” It’s easier being Protestant, I suppose; don’t have to remember all those pesky feasts and holy days and all.

The way Halloween is actually celebrated is, to say the least, quite secular. It’s all about ghosties and ghoulies and goblins; about lots of candy; about one of my favorite colors, orange (a Protestant color if ever there was one, thanks to William of, well, you know…) I understand that Halloween has become the occasion on which the most is spent on decorating, costumes, consumables, etc.

In my experience, many conservative evangelical churches consider Halloween to be a thing of Satan; Old Scratch being a very popular figure for costumes, even if he is often disguised as a stand-in (e.g. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Osama bin Laden). Just kidding about Bill Clinton; he doesn’t really belong with those other two devils.

My thought is that Halloween is fun, if it doesn’t devolve into worship of that which is evil. Of course, the whole concept of Halloween, the money and time spent on it, does reek just a little of idolatry, the worship of a thing. Actually, it seems quite a lot like idolatry– but no more so than how Christmas is celebrated in the public square, especially now that it’s become difficult to even use the name “Christmas.” That period of time between Thanksgiving (and who are we giving thanks to?) and New Year’s is called “The Holidays”, just another opportunity for retailers to make their sales numbers for the year.

Another complaint for anyone who takes his evil seriously (I try to), is that things that are soul-less beasties, and hence evil, are presented as being merely cute. Haven’t you all noticed those cutsie skeletons, carved pumpkins, and not-so-frightening witches? As with much else, the whole concept of evil has been dumbed down and softened for consumption by children and child-like adults. Wouldn’t want to really scare them, now, would we?

So why is Halloween fun for a Christian? Simply because it can be used as a reminder. That death, which is ostensibly the thing celebrated, is part of life. Halloween could instruct us, especially if we recall its ancient meaning in the Church, that death is not the end — Just the beginning of a new chapter.

Happy All Hallows Eve, y’all.


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