Halloween: It’s Not About The Devil
Wednesday - October 31, 2007
When my son was little, another kid said to him, “Halloween is for the devil.” This, of course, was confusing to a child whose parents had been taking him trick-or-treating ever since he was old enough to toddle around in a puppy costume. (Adorable. But enough of that.)
The other child meant no harm. He and his family attend a church that sees Halloween as a pagan celebration that encourages the glorification of evil - ghouls, goblins, devils and witches, not to mention those creepy Jason and Slasher masks that some kids and plenty of adults love. All those dark creatures would scare us silly if they weren’t so, well, silly.
And when I say silly, it’s because that’s what Halloween is - an occasion that allows us to play. We can pretend to be scary, or whatever, because everybody’s doing it. It’s the one night of the year when you can be a monster or an angel, and it’s OK.
Plus, you get candy! How cool is that?
Most of the small kids I see around don’t go for the evil stuff anyway. They like Spidey and Harry and Lion King, good guys all. They love super heroes and Cheetah Girls. They carry light sabers. They want to be scared, but it’s a fun kind of scared - the kind that never, ever hurts. My son wanted to be Darth Vader one year, but it did not scar him for life.
It is true that the origins of Halloween go hundreds of years back to the Celts. The Celtic priests of the Druids would mark the “passing of the season of the sun and the start of the season of cold and darkness.” They would sacrifice animals and plants, and dance around huge bonfires to ward off evil spirits. The next day, Nov. 1, was the first day of their new year, and folks would walk around in the skins and heads of their animals. Sounds like the start of the costume parade tradition to me.
As the years passed the celebrations morphed to fit whatever cultural influences were prevalent at the time - the Romans and early Christians each made their mark and changed it to suit their own beliefs. Our Halloween is really a mishmash of all of these traditions. It’s a melting pot holiday.
The real danger of Halloween as it exists today isn’t in its pagan origins. We don’t sacrifice animals to the gods and dance around bonfires anymore (unless you are a college football fan). The risk to our kids has more to do with their physical well-being than with their souls. Nowadays we have to put reflective stickers all over their costumes so our little monsters don’t get mowed down by cars. We have to cull their candy cache to make sure some sicko hasn’t inserted poison or razor blades in the goodies. We are on the alert for child molesters and kidnappers. Some of the dangers are real, like the traffic. Others are overblown - how many razor blades have you actually found, anyway? - but we worry all the same. And we are right to be protective and on guard. A lot of families are avoiding the neighborhood trick-or-treating altogether in favor of newer venues - shopping malls, office buildings, even churches throw their own Halloween bashes - and grateful parents are responding. The tradition evolves.
Now that my son is older, we don’t go all out with the decorating anymore. I no longer spook out the entire house with cobwebs and skeletons and talking coffins. But I’m glad my son had what my husband and I had when we were kids - the spooky, innocent fun of Halloween. It’s part of what made our childhood special. And I wouldn’t want to take that magic away from today’s kids.
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