Can Halloween Be Hallowed?

What do you do for Halloween, if anything?  Aidan was only 7 weeks old when Philip and I attended a Halloween costume party.  New parents, proud of our precious babe, Aidan was the cutest clown ever.

Halloweens came and went.  More babies.  More costumes, candy, and jack-o-lanterns.

Philip is a New Zealander who grew up in England.  During his first autumn in the states, he was terribly confused about the American affection for pumpkins. Why are there television shows dedicated to it?  Especially weird to him:  the American attention to Halloween.  In neither New Zealand nor England is Halloween terribly important.

Well, welcome to America, I said.  Taste this pumpkin pie, I said, and, Here’s
a bowl of candy to hand out to the neighborhood kids

When I grew up Halloween was all very innocent and festive, but I think things have changed.  A few days ago, the children and I stopped in at a Halloween store to pick up a Dorothy costume for Claire, complete with picnic basket carrying Toto.  Is it my imagination, or is there more ghoul and darkness in the stores this year?  I’ve always tolerated the dumb automated scare machines and creepy masks, but this year the dark and evil stuff dominated our local store.  Most disgusting:  a display of zombie babies.  We got in and out fast.  I will never go back.

Philip and I have been married for 14 years.  We have always allowed the children to dress up in costumes and we go trick-or-treating to our neighbors’ houses.  It’s become a family tradition:  trick-or-treating followed by spiced cider or hot cocoa.

But, some neighbors have signs in their windows:  WE DO NOT CELEBRATE HALLOWEEN.  At times, I have a pang of guilt: Am I allowing my children to participate in something dark and evil?  I hope not.  I don’t think Halloween is inherently evil and wrong, but it’s certainly true that our culture has seized upon the darkness and now it’s really out of control.  The fascination in youth culture with vampires doesn’t help matters.

Halloween is, of course, the Eve of All Saints Day.  The communion of saints is a reason to celebrate of course.  Can we teach our children the real meaning behind the night?  Can we make the night a way to bring family together in joy, in remembrance of our loved ones who have passed away, in remembrance of the faithful departed?  Is it really possible in our culture?

I read that the custom of trick-or-treating originated in Great Britain and Ireland when families would go “souling” on All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween) singing and praying for dead loved ones in return for cakes.  Children would sometime dress up in disguises on these occasions.   So charming and meaningful.  A hallowed night has become hollow, an excuse for excess and greed, impropriety and the occult.  Yuck.

Well, we have chosen our path this year.  We’ll allow the children to wear costumes.  We’ll go trick or treating and we’ll attend the annual costume party at the home of family friends, where many homeschooling families gather for good food, games, and laughter.  I love this costume party.  It brings Halloween home, with families – moms, dads, grandparents, kids —  gathered together at night, laughing outdoors by candlelight, warmed by portable outdoor heaters. Last year one teen wore a Scarlet O’Hara costume that she had designed and made herself.

But I walk the path with an open heart, willing to change our path if it’s the right thing to do.  Pray for us, and I will pray for you.

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