the virtue of Halloween…

… A huge part of why I took to Catholicism like a fish to water was that Papists love to party. We have a feast almost daily, and if you’re bi-ritual or pre-Vatican II you’ll have multiple calendars to induce ecclesiastical schizophrenia. Catholics also have an amazing knack of taking regional traditions and making them their own; just ask those ungrateful pagans.

I’ve lived in various parts of the Bible Belt and have encountered just about every reaction one can have to Halloween, the saddest being the belief that Halloween is satanic. It is this belief that has many parents keeping their children in doors while the rest of us dance naked around fires and let our children roam the streets hours past their bedtimes. I’m kidding of course. Not all of us get naked.

I have always loved Halloween. It hearkens my inner prankster and some of my best childhood memories are of my friends and I giggling through the streets in our ghoulish best.

Let the emotional scarring begin!

I can certainly understand the apprehension many parents feel toward this holiday; the costumes some kids wear can be freakishly grotesque or down right slutty. The devil and walking dead costumes may also reinforce the whole satanic aspect in some minds but to Catholics death doesn’t scare us. We don’t talk about death in hushed whispers so the children won’t hear. We don’t hide from it or pretend it doesn’t exist. Catholics embrace death for what it is, the inevitable. We even pray for a happy death. So to be scared of Halloween makes little sense.

I liken Halloween to a gringo version of Dia De Los Muertos. Ultimately it is celebration of life and death. On all Saints and Souls Day we pray and remember those who have died. In my home we have an ofrenda made in the honor of dead loved ones. Since my first son is buried in Alabama and our family plot is at a cemetery in Virginia visiting their graveside is not practical. Instead we visit a different cemetery each year locally and remove dead flowers, pull up weeds at head-stones, and pray for those dead. To an individual who holds death as taboo, Halloween and the days following it may seem unnecessarily macabre and death obsessed. It’s easy to take things we don’t understand and make them sinister in our minds. But Halloween is not sinister. It’s as harmless as Scooby Doo. Halloween jumps out from the bushes and scares the pants off you then lifts up it’s mask to offer you a cheeky wink.  So you see, if death isn’t the boogey man than Halloween no longer seems so nefarious.

That, and you’re never too old for candy.

About Katrina Fernandez

Mackerel Snapping Papist

  • Eegahinc

    Besides agreeing with your main points, I have to say the Paul Stanley costume made my day.

    • Katrina Fernandez

      It’s pretty damn sweet.

  • Guenevere Eckert

    If you have a moment, please pop over and vote in my Halloween Costume Contest! You might win the knowledge that you have the best taste! Happy Halloween! >^_^<

  • Lydiamcgrew

    I think it _can_ be what you are saying, just harmless “boo” stuff, and it was like that in my childhood. But I think nowadays people are more and more (as you briefly acknowledge, but then don’t seem to think is a big deal) going out of their way to _make_ it deliberately grotesque and dark. It gets worse every year. Some costumes and decorations are just cute or fake-scary, but others are really bad. A few years ago a guy in my neighborhood had up these “decorations” for the whole month of October with giant blood-stained carving knives and realistic looking plastic models of pieces of human flesh and bloody body parts carved up on a table in the front yard and hung on a sort of rack over the table. It was truly horrible. When I went to the door and politely told him that I didn’t feel comfortable walking my children by the yard with those things there, he was exceedingly rude and just told me to get out. It was really grotesque stuff. As for the “walking dead,” you don’t have to fear death in the slightest to think that an obsession with bloody zombies (which form no part of either Catholic or Protestant theology) is somewhat unhealthy. In short, the holiday needn’t be intrinsically a problem but can indeed become so depending on what human beings do with it, and human beings seem to be trying to do bad things with it more and more as the years go by. It seems only sensible to recognize that fact (which will also probably vary from city to city) and decide on one’s actions accordingly.

    But since my comments are pretty much entirely ignored on this blog anyway (perhaps because I’m not Catholic?), I don’t know if there’s any point in my bothering writing all of this out and don’t know why I did so.

    • daisy

      If someone came to me to complain about my Halloween decorations I’d probably tell them to take a hike too.

      • Lydiamcgrew

        Real neighborly attitude you have there, Daisy. If you had models of hunks of human flesh displayed in your front yard, you should maybe think twice if somebody complained about them. Besides, neighbors are supposed to give a damn about each other.

        • Scott W.

          Indeed. Lydia. I do take your point that over the years, Halloween has more and more taken on a kind of License to Disturb Thy Neighbor quality to it.

          P.S. Lydia is very much a welcome addition to any blog. For instance, her knowlege of all the players in the abortion wars is indispensable. Stick around Lydia!

          • Katrina Fernandez

            Is that the Stink Eye? LOL

    • The_crescat

      I don’t intentionally ignore, unless their obnoxiously boorish, which aren’t or have ever been. I may not respond to everyone simply bc I have nothing more to add. I think you intelligently stated your point and I don’t clarification. It is a weel though out comment without much I could add to it.

      I have no way of knowing your religious affiliation so rest assured you are not being snubbed because you haven’t swam the Tiber yet. I say “yet” because I believe everyone prot is a Catholic who hasn’t found their way home.

      • Lydiamcgrew

        Okay, thanks, and sorry for acting touchy.

        • Katrina Fernandez

          Good grief… my comment above was barely coherent! I apologize for assaulting your grammatical senses.

  • nbwooden

    Great post. As Catholics we should take back our holiday. If people that feel like Halloween has gotten out of control with the macabre/slutty stuff , should not buy into that whole scene. Don’t go to “those” stores to get any item, be it scary or not, write to the store and let them know why you are not buying there. I believe the stores will cater to the majority and will listen if enough people complain. We as a people need to start becoming more active instead letting the culture ram that junk down our throats.

  • D.P.

    I read a history of Halloween a while back ( I no longer have it so I can’t give citations), that traced the particular practice of “trick or treating” to an old Christian custom where the poor would walk around the villages offering to pray for the souls of those households that would give them food. The lanterns they carried had faces that represented the souls in purgatory. Also interesting is that most of these traditions that we associate with Halloween were initially tied to Christmas, not Samhain (which was a relatively minor festival in the celtic calender; the spring and summer feasts were far more important); as the observance of Christmas was abolished in much of the British Isles after the Reformation, these traditions were moved to earlier in the fall where they would appear more secular.

    I do not remember the exact title or the authors name, but it was published by a university press so it wasn’t a fluff piece.

    Happy Halloween everyone!

  • Manny

    I do find those that over do it (decorations that rival Christmas, wild parties as if they’re college kids) are kind of childish. My two year old had a great time as Elmo this afternoon. :)

  • Catholic Bibliophagist

    I went to Catholic school for a couple years way back in the early ’60s where I discovered another advantage to being Catholic: We Catholic school kids got to stay home the day after Halloween (All Saints Day) and gorge ourselves on candy while our public school playmates had to go to school. Yes!!!! We are the party church!