Halloween: Charlie Chaplin does Hitler

Halloween: Charlie Chaplin does Hitler October 30, 2013

Ah, Halloween. That magical holiday that kicks off the Holiday Mommy Wars. You know what I mean, right? Halloween vs. All Saint’s Day, Thanksgiving vs. A Day of Gratitude Where We Remember that We Owe Those Puritans Nothing and We Pray for the Souls of the Indians Slaughtered While We Eat This Delicious Turkey, Santa vs. St. Nicholas, Your Kid’s a Pagan vs. My Kid’s a Saint-in-training…etc.

Okay, so I may be exaggerating just a little. I have pretty good friends who don’t do the Santa business, and pretty good friends who don’t trick-or-treat, and pretty good friends whose kids really are saints-in-training. Personally, I commemorate Thanksgiving by reminding everyone in a 10 mile radius that since I’m  1/32 Cherokee, I refuse to express gratitude for the pale-faced killjoys who stole our land, slaughtered our buffalo, and took away our peace pipes, and don’t even get me started on Pocahontas and Squanto, the dirty traitors. But then the Ogre usually takes away my wine.

Nevertheless, you’d have to be blind to not notice that on this holiday, people across the spectrum are deeply divided on what to think about this bizarre American freak-show of a holiday. And when I say “deeply divided,” I mean rabidly accusing each other of ruining their children’s lives forever and ever!

Seriously. Either you’re accused of sanitizing and wimpifying Halloween because you coddle your panty-waist skirt-clingers, or you’re accused of worshiping the shit out of Satan and probably opening the Hellmouth (where you and your fake-bloody sproglodytes are unquestionably headed).

Me, I’ve always gone with the wimpifying accusation. I like the creepy-spooky-bloody Halloween. I like it because I’m still the same kid who, when forced to dress as a Bible character, chose Jezebel for eight years running. I like it because I really do think it’s all in good fun,  a way of mocking evil spirits, and one of those peculiar Catholic things that make everyone else think we’re crazycakes.

Prayer time!

But yesterday, as I was gearing up to write the POST TO END ALL HALLOWEEN POSTS, I read Charlotte’s post about how maybe everyone should really just chillax about this whole Halloween thing. And I thought, huh. She’s totally right. Why are we so obsessed with the morality of how other people celebrate a holiday about sugar?

Since I’m nothing if not pragmatic*, though, I couldn’t waste a good Nazi analogy. So this is why I think it’s okay to be a zombie for Halloween, featuring Thora Birch and Charlie Chaplin.

The other day, someone asked on facebook how exactly dressing up as witches and zombies and other creatures of the night is mocking them and not glorifying them. Here’s a handy guide to discerning what’s mockery and what’s glorification:

Mockery. Adorable mockery, brought to you by Thora Birch, MIA



Or, look at it this way:


Some of you might be thinking, “hey, that’s great, Calah, you totally ace that X:Y::Y:X portion of the SAT. But that analogy only extends so far. I mean, if a bunch of adults and children dressed up as Nazis and spent a whole evening rewarding each other with candy for goose-stepping and Hitler-heiling because mockery, we’d all flip our collective shiznit.”

Yes, indeed, we would. Because that would be so, so disrespectful to the memories of the millions dead in World War II. Because that’s history past, and mocking fallen powers doesn’t take any kind of courage. If you believe, as I do, that evil spirits are alive and well and having caboodles of fun rightthissecond, it’s more like imagining that a group of people got together in Pariser Platz in 1943, dressed up as Nazis and making fun of the goose-stepping and Hitler-heiling. Which would have infuriated the Nazis precisely because it would have shown how little power they really wielded over the hearts and minds of the people they were hell-bent on controlling and killing.

So. Do I really think that by dressing my children as little witches and werewolves, I’m taking some kind of courageous stand against the powers of evil? Nah, not really. But neither do I think I’m celebrating evil, glorifying Satan, or doing eternal damage to my children’s souls.

The thing is, the origins of Halloween are murky at best, and vary by country. Whatever it may once have been, in modern-day America it’s a secular celebration of costumes and candy and neighbors. It’s not really a celebration of virtue or a celebration of evil so much as it’s a celebration of Mars, Inc. So dress up and binge on sugar if you want, or don’t if you don’t, but stop accusing your neighbors of some kind of imaginary heresy because they hang spiderwebs in their yard or go see a movie instead of trick-or-treating.

Either way, though, don’t take a cue from the Puritans and pull out your curmudgeon pants on Halloween. Swallow your ideological disapproval long enough to pass out candy to the toddlers who knock eagerly at your door. And for the love of all that’s holy, don’t pass out saint cards unless they are attached to candy. Giving out just the cards isn’t so much evangelization as asshattery.

*I guess you could also call me calm, responsible, and extremely level-headed

Browse Our Archives