Time once again for your annual reminder that in a lot of ways the secular holiday of Halloween is, in fact, one of the single most Christian holidays celebrated by Americans. It is a unique blend of sacred and civic holiday and one well worth preserving in its most pure (1970s and 1980s) form.
Of course Christmas and Easter and Thanksgiving are explicitly Christian in nature, but consider that Halloweeen is extraordinarily Christian in practice. The other three holidays are largely celebrated amongst close friends and family, with the odd work function thrown in. That impersonal community building exercises increase in November and December is nice, but that doesn’t have the same community building and ice breaking effect that a good round of trick or treating does.
Halloween is the one holiday specifically celebrated as a community. It’s the one in which everyone puts in considerable effort to make the celebration more enjoyable for complete strangers. People set aside money to buy treats for kids they spend the rest of the year shouting at to keep of their lawns. (Hello, Mr. Smith, where ever you are you racist, cantankerous old bastard!) They decorate their houses with lights and spooks and invite the entire neighborhood to stop by for a moment of fun.
As a kid, I always thought we had the best part of the deal. We got to dress up, run around like maniacs, and make off with piles of free candy. It never occurred to me that the adults might have just as much fun watching the steady parade of kids march past their door. Now that I’m old and cantankerous myself, I know better. Watching the young families send their toddlers up the driveway and try to complete the steps necessary for a treat is heartwarming and personal in a way dropping a new, unwrapped toy into the Toys For Tots bin can never match.
Even the process of showing young children that the monsters are not real – that the man in the scary mask is nothing more than a man in the scary mask – takes on an incredibly important role in forming a healthy society. Like the old C. S. Lewis maxim goes, it’s good to show children monsters to teach them that the stuff of their nightmares is either a figment of their imagination or to help them master and control their own fear even (and especially) during times when the fight or flight adrenaline rush of fear is justified.
The annual pleas by churches for a “safe” Halloween spent at the church hall, huddled together with the same people you see every Sunday is a cancer, to say nothing of those who would replace Halloween with a generic “Harvest Festival”. We have one of those already – its called Thanksgiving. This TradCath takes a dim view of Churches who do such things. They always smack of a marketing ploy to entice more parishioners to show up on Sundays, and a step backwards into increasing insularity. True Christians look forward to going out and celebrating with their actual, live-next-door neighbors. That’s the kind of community building that America could use a lot more of in these days when the establishment politicians are so hell-bent (and as a TradCatholic I use that term literally) on tearing us apart.
And lest you think I’m being hyperbolic about the foolishness and opportunism of those who resort to the fig leaf of “safety”: