Many Christian have traditionally celebrated Nov. 1 as All Saints Day, and the preceding evening is sometimes referred to on the Christian calendar, therefore, as “All Hallows Eve.” All Hallows Eve morphed over time (I don’t know the history) into Hall-o-ween, which in the United States is a much bigger deal than All Saints Day is anywhere else. Some notable Christian holidays (Easter, Christmas) actually have pagan roots. Halloween is the only observed holiday I know of that has become a thoroughly pagen holiday with Christian roots.
Maybe this particularly unholy history of the misnamed “holiday” lies at the root of my increasing displeasure (and sometime disgust) with Halloween. though I’m not one of those anti-witchcraft people who don’t let me kids read Harry Potter. My religion does not mark the traditional Christian calendar (other than Christmas and Easter), so I’m not one to pay much attention. However, when I lived in Finland there did seem to be a lot of religious holidays used by the overwhelmingly secular society as a means of getting the day off from work—one of the effects of having a state church. Indeed, there used to be so many holy days, that some economic historians have noted that the reduction in religious observance of these holy days generated observable increases in annual economic output in Europe.
I liked Halloween as kid, but it was much less of a big deal then. And since my mother is European, she never did relate to it. This resulted in my not getting a lot of parental support or encouragement for the stressful enterprise of figuring out a costume. What I hate most is the pressure or obligation to dress up. If it suits others, fine. Just get off my back if my costume for every event is the same: lame college professor.
And just because you may see Halloween as the perfect venue to show off your fun, creative side, don’t expect me to. I prefer to express creativity that doesn’t involve sticking my hands in slimy pumpkins or, basically, any public activity that involves making clothing appear interesting.
If Halloween were about being clever, I would just enjoy people’s cleverness and be done with it. But this whole scary, haunted, frightening part of the day is annoying. I have been genuinely afraid before. It is an emotion that sane people want to avoid. And the pseudo-fear that comes from a haunted house or a scary movie seems just, well, pointless. Reality is interesting. Artificial horror is boring. Having a young child go missing: scary. Wearing an ugly mask with eyeballs hanging out: dumb.
Over recent decades Halloween has become, like other holidays, more and more commercialized. We could point to Michael Jackson’s Thriller or the Pirates of the Carribean movie series as further adding to this trend. Along with the commercialization, the holiday has gotten longer, pricier, and skankier. It doesn’t seem to satisfy Paul’s admonition to pursue that which is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). And it has become much more in my face. I don’t want it in my face, especially all the candy I have to eat but definitely don’t need.
Of course the little kids can look pretty cute in costume, and as a parent it is always enjoyable to see kids having a good time (though I’ve dealt with more whining, tired, sick, don’t-want-to-walk-home-in -the-cold kids than I care to remember). I can’t help but feel, though, that the kids are being exploited a little bit to show off the creativity of parents (usually moms). On the other hand, what do they care? Stuff some candy in their faces, and they’re good. Frankly, since kids are such an economic drag on the family, they actually deserve to be exploited.
I like having the cute kids (as well as the ugly ones) in the neighborhood come to my door and for my kids to visit the other homes around us. It is a fairly low-cost way to strengthen community ties, to get to know each other a bit more. Scrooge, therefore, wouldn’t like it. Though, since it is still mostly a non-governmental enterprise that doesn’t seem to be associated with higher taxes (at least for now), maybe he would?
But I still say, “Humbug!”