Thoughtfulness re Halloween

It’s my favorite time of the year, after Christmas; the biting air, the crunchy leaves beneath my feet, the pumpkins and the sense of harvest and closing, of bursting into autumn until you cannot be autumn anymore, and must slide into winter.

I’ve reposted, several times, my thoughts about Halloween, itself, and it’s always fun to look at the pictures, but I urge you to take a gander at Sally Thomas’ smart piece on The Drama of Hallowmas:

Halloween’s emphasis on darkness makes many Christians squeamish, but, to my mind, what my friend observed about the medieval feel of Halloween is more on the money. There is a drama to be played out, like a mystery play in three scenes, and it makes sense only if you observe all three days of Hallowmas—not only Halloween but All Saints’ and All Souls’ days as well. In this context, the very secularity and even the roots-level paganism of Halloween become crucial elements in a larger Christian story.

You’ll want to read it all. Thought-provoking.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • kimsch

    a peek at the darkness makes the light all that much more wonderful.

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  • Mutnodjmet

    Have a Happy Halloween, Anchoress. I will be attending my first All Saints Day mass this year! I am looking forward to it! :)

    [It's always one of my favorite masses of the year. I love coming out of Mass and realizing that while the world has moved on in its daily fury, the Catholics have taken time to quietly remember those who went before us -admin]

  • Andrew B

    I have always felt that Hallowe’en is a vitally important chance to do some spiritual housekeeping before entering into the wonders of Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas.

    Hallowe’en gives us a safe, fun, structured way to acknowledge the very real fears of this life–death, darkness and the unknown. Drink it all in deep, the candy-corn scented, pumpkin-lighted, moonlit weirdness of it. Then, on November 1, make a clean breast of it. Open your heart to a sense of anticipation, gratitude and good fellowship. Welcome the chill, short days and long nights that lead us to the manger.

  • zmama

    When I taught 2nd grade several years ago the 2nd graders dressed up each year as their patron or favorite saint. Today at my daughter’s school I had the joy and fun of seeing her and her friends dressed up as saints. As the mother of one this was my one chance, so with the intercession of St Therese (one of my daughter’s patron saints) and the magic of no-sew hem tape I was able to whip up a Carmelite habit.
    The children learned facts about their saint and presented them at a “Saints Museum”. You could see in their eyes how proud they were to tell their special visitors, including the children and teachers in the other grades, about their saint.

    Although my daughter is very excited for Halloween (candy being her favorite food group!) and to be able to wear her Dorothy costume complete with red ruby slippers I think she was just as excited today but in a different way. Each night for the past 2 weeks she couldn’t wait for me to read another chapter of the book on St. Therese which was mine when I was younger.

    I have to admit one of the perks of attending Catholic school was to have off the day after Halloween for the Feast of All Saints. A couple weeks ago a cashier in a store I was in with my daughter said in a happy voice “and this year Halloween is on a Saturday!” I laughed and came home and told my husband my first reaction was the Catholic school kids get jipped this year because Nov. 1st falls on Sunday.

    Could it be that because so many of the evangelicals and other Christians shy away from recognition of our beautiful communion of saints that lacking the connection of Halloween with All Saints they only see the pagan remnants of the holiday? It is a shame because in this truly dark world the saints are the greatest role models for our children.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Yes, I remember how wonderful it was as a Catholic school kid, getting November 1st off. And I loved the solem All Saints Mass. The church bells would always toll for those who’d died the previous year.

    I don’t know why some Catholic parishes are turning away from All Saints Day, whether it has something to do with evangelicals, or not. I remember a few years, when I was still Catcholic, hurrying to church that evening, for what I was sure would be an All Saints service. Nope, the priest told me that current thinking was that they could celebrate the holy day on Sunday. so no service that night. There were a lot of people standing around the parking lot, looking confused.

    [Can't say for certain, but if the Holy Day fell on a Saturday, perhaps the Bishop had allowed it to be counted for Sunday? I know of no parish that is "moving away" from ASD -admin]

  • Elaine

    Which makes all the more interesting the “movement” being pushed by some retailers to move Halloween permanently to the last Saturday in October on the grounds that it would make life easier for kids and parents if they didn’t have to go to school or work the next day, and would mean more money for costume shops, candy stores, bars, movie theaters, haunted houses, etc.

    I doubt that this movement will succeed any time soon, but you never know… holidays have been moved around before for similar reasons, most notably with the federal Monday Holidays and FDR’s shifting the date of Thanksgiving to extend the Christmas shopping season.

    If it did happen, however, would it be worthwhile to permanently move All Saints Day to the Sunday immediately following, and perhaps even All Souls Day to the Monday immediately following, in order to preserve the link between these feasts? I kind of think “yes” but I know others will disagree, perhaps vehemently.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Myself, I believe movable feasts ought to be kept moving, and that the best way to celebrate a holy day is on the day it actually falls.

    I am afraid that moving All Saints permanently to Sunday will tend to make it—well, just another Sunday. Sunday’s are special, yes, but if you’re going to church on that day anyway, the holiday is going to be loose some of its unique nature.

    (Yes, I know Easter always falls on Sunday, but it’s always a different Sunday, not the same one every year, and there’s always the Trisagion coming before. If, say, retailers were to push for Easter to come on the last Sunday of April, because that way people would have more time to buy candy, and hold easter egg hunts, that would take something away from it.)

  • Elaine

    As it happens, Rhinestone, there is a movement toward a fixed date for Easter that BOTH Eastern and Western Christians can agree on… as it stands now, the Catholic/Protestant and Orthodox Easters can be as much as 5 weeks apart, with “their” Lent starting right around the time “ours” ends.

    If Easter were fixed at the first or second Sunday of April as a means of uniting Christians on a common observance I think that would be reasonable. (Easter in March is just way too early, IMO, especially when it still falls in Midwestern sleet and blizzard season!)

    Of course Lent and Eastertide would have to shift accordingly to fixed dates as well. A push to make it later than that purely to extend the shopping season, however, would “take something away from it” as you said.

    I’m not actually in favor of moving Halloween to Saturday precisely BECAUSE that would detach it from All Saints Day and require tinkering with the Church calendar to restore the “connection.”

    As for All Saints becoming “just another Sunday,” well, that’s already happened with feasts like Corpus Christi, Epiphany, and Ascension.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    i know that’s happened with feasts such as Corpus Christi, etc., Elaine, and I think we’ve lost someting important by doing that.

    I haven’t heard of the Orthodox/Catholic push for a fixed Easter. Again, respectfully, I have to say I think it’s a bad idea.

    Even if Catholics and the Orthodox celebrate a fixed Easter together, I doubt other Christian denominations will be on board with this. Many evangelical, protestant churches are dubious about celebrating Easter with all the flair Catholics/Orthodox do, because they find it idolotrous. Others have developed their own services, such as the Easter Sunrise services, very different from the way the Catholics/Orthodx celebrate. For another thing, I gather that Lent/Advent have pretty much faded out as disciplines in many protestant churches, or aren’t practiced in the same way they are with the Catholic/Orthodox.

    The fact is, there are real differences among various Christian denominations. Might as well simply accept that. I do think tinkering with All Saints is a bad idea. But, honestly, I think all calendar tinkering with religious holidays is a bad idea.

    And, of course, there’s really no way to keep the money merchants from getting into it. A fixed Easter will tempt them lauch full scale marketing campaigns (beginning immediately after Christmas, of course) to get us to buy as much as we can, before the big day. Advent, as a time of penance and prayer, has pretty much been wiped out by the Christmas rush, whereas in the past, it was almost as serious a penitential period as Lent. Fix Easter, and I’m afraid Lent will go the same way.

    (Anchoress, I’m hoping it was just that Halloween was on a Saturday that year–I don’t remember! But many Catholic churches in our area are extremely new age, or evangelical, and not always mindful of the traditional feasts.)

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    I think one thing that’s kept Easter from getting as commercialized as Christmas/All Saints-Halloween is that, being a movable feast, they just can’t pin it down. Pin it down, and the money merchants will swarm around it!

    Also, I don’t see any problem with different churches having different dates for Lent, or Easter, or different ways of celebrating Christian holy days. It’s been going on for centuries, after all, and Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Protestentism have all survived. Again, I suspect the one group that would really benefit from a fixed Easter would be those who want to sell us stuff; it’s easier for them to target one big day, then lots of little “big days”.