Frank Weathers says he’s done apologizing for Halloween. I’m way ahead of him. I never started.
Halloween is a great holiday! I think it’s ridiculous that so many people think they’re pious for boycotting what should be a wonderful spiritual and evangelical opportunity. Plus, a lot of fun.
Here’s what I love about Halloween:
1) It gets people thinking about death.
We don’t do nearly enough of that in modern society. Death is still a reality of human existence, but we squirrel it away to hospital rooms and try to forget it. Except once each year, when we have a whole holiday for drawing our attention back to mortality.
Halloween is the first day of the “death triad,” which also encompasses All Saints Day on November 1st and All Souls on the 2nd. Halloween concerns the plight of merely mortal. The other two days draw our eyes ahead to the post-mortem. It’s a wonderful progression and I look forward to it all year. Why do some people sell themselves short by ignoring Halloween?
2) It fires kids’ imagination.
People today (but especially kids) get way too much advice to “get real”. Halloween opens the door to the fantastic in a way that can be very healthy.
Every year I take my kids to public Halloween celebrations, and I love seeing the wild and wacky costumes that people invent. Even for kids (like mine!) who follow the herd by dressing as Disney characters or superheroes, Halloween becomes a great occasion for getting imaginative.
3) It makes grown-ups more reflective about the supernatural.
Modern people can be downright paranoid when it comes to accepting the possibly unreal. Many would prefer almost any other shame to that of being classed as gullible or superstitious. This can be a major problem from the standpoint of evangelization, since many suppose that they are “critical minded” for refusing to believe in things they can’t see.
But some of those people have a soft spot for Halloween. It seems to open a crack through which the fairies, spooks and spirits of ages past can slip. I think it’s enjoyable for a certain sort of person to enjoy a momentary half-reprieve from the soul-crushing meaninglessness of modern life. Rather than raining on that parade, we should join it, and see if we can’t make something more of that yearning for the non-material.
You knew this was coming, right?
And even if you can’t yourself get into the creepy-crawly stuff, surely there’s something to be said for breaking Snickers together?
5) It enhances community.
I’m a person who sometimes laments our lack of a “family-centric” culture. Maybe people would have more children if they felt like the world didn’t revolve so exclusively around adult jobs, adult interests and adult entertainments. Actually though, there is one festivity that gets communities positively excited to celebrate families and children. Which do you think that is?
As a mom, I think Halloween week is awesome. It’s a blitz of fun, family-friendly events, culminating in Halloween night when all the adults in the community give a few hours of their lives to making things fun for the neighborhood kids. This is the one time that that happens, all year round. And nobody ever tries to give my kids Tarot cards or induct them into Satanic cults. It’s an outpouring of good, neighborly fun.
Many churches (mine included) schedule “All Saints” events on Halloween to draw the kids away from trick-or-treating, which seems to me like a shame. Sure, it’d be better if the community celebrated the Feast of St. George or had a Christmas carol-sing, but must we always let the perfect be the enemy of the good?
6) That black and orange construction paper has to be used sometime.
Between Christmas and Independence Day, the red always runs low. Easter claims the pastels. Thanksgiving is a good time for the browns. Notre Dame football consumes the blue and yellow. Halloween fills out the color spectrum by giving the orange and black its due.
7) We shouldn’t be (too) afraid of our pagan past.
Some Christians are wary of Halloween because it’s not explicitly Christian. And of course, there are a few people who use it an opportunity to celebrate the Satanic. Clearly, Christians should not celebrate it in that way. But understood more properly, it is a day for thinking about death, and about the myths and monsters that helped our pagan ancestors grapple with the reality of death.
Living in a hostile secular culture, it’s always tempting to circle our wagons against anything that doesn’t seem Christian enough. But paganism is not our enemy. Our Christian ancestors managed to incorporate the healthy elements of Christian philosophy and culture into their own, while still worshipping the one true God in all His splendor and truth. We can do the same.
Halloween isn’t a terribly serious holiday, so it’s a good time to smile at the ghouls and goblins, pixies and faeries of ages past. They will not harm us. And remembering our pagan heritage will leave us all the better equipped to gape in awe at the fullness of Christian truth.
[See also: 19 Hauntingly Christian Jack-O-Lanterns]