the virtue of Halloween…

the virtue of Halloween… October 30, 2011

… 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.

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