Catholic Moment: Halloween light
September 26, 2011
By Jeanne Hunt
In a world where Halloween is running a close second behind Christmas for most popular holiday, what I have to say is going to sound like I’m raining on the parade. It’s just that the last thing we need to do to our kids is make evil look good, and Halloween does just that: Dracula, monsters, ghosts, witches, warlocks and even Satan himself march up to our front doors, and it’s just fine with us. It’s all in fun. What’s a little spooky evil one night of the year? Children enjoy a good scare, right? The answer for those of us who worship the Light and not the dark side is an emphatic “no!”
I told you I was going to pull the stopper on your witch’s brew. When we glorify evil in any way, it takes a toll on our souls. Little souls especially need to be protected from anything that smacks of the dark side. When my children were small, I wouldn’t let them watch certain television programs and movies. If a scary or violent movie was grabbing their attention, I would turn off the tube (televisions had tubes back then) and proclaim, “You can’t watch that. It’s bad for your spirit!”
To this day, my kids love to tease me with “It’s bad for your spirit.” Yet, they got the message. When we focus on violence, fear, hatred or the occult, it leaves us more violent, more fearful, and more attracted to evil. Our very souls are damaged by the encounter, and Satan is more than willing to convince us that focusing on evil is harmless.
What’s required of us as we care for little souls is to fill their lives with, in the words of St Paul, “those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and honorable” (Philippians 4:8). The average Halloween event looks more like everything that is intimidating, frightful, ugly and disgusting.
I ask you to consider going over to the Light side. Is it possible to celebrate the eve of all hallows without all the gory phantoms and frightful blood eaters? What if we approach this from the original intentions: Halloween originated as the vigil before the feast of All Saints (called All Hallows). While Mother Church was imposing this event on top of a pagan holiday (a favorite trick of the sacred calendar planners), Halloween initially was played down for the big double header: All Saints and All Souls days.
I’m not saying this is an easy sell. Our kids can’t wait to get on the evil bandwagon, and we’ll look like Ned Flanders from “The Simpsons” insisting that perhaps they should trade in the Freddy Kruger costume for St Francis of Assisi. If we stick to our guns and outlaw the blood and guts and all those dark characters, I’ll bet we will still have a great Halloween.
First of all, let’s get involved in making costumes rather than picking up a devil suit at the discount store. One family put together a big box of old clothes, prom dresses, tuxedos, crazy hats and such and let the kids have at it. The results were some hilarious outfits that were real photo ops. We can turn all those scary decorations into a sparkly orange and black explosion that is filled with smiling pumpkins, excited black cats and whimsical saints and angels. Get the idea?
Halloween Light could include homemade candy and cookie treats, a fizzy orange punch and a bonfire with weenies and s’mores. This is strictly countercultural and means that we will not buy into the commercial Halloween’s evil tramp through our Catholic values.
I really want you and your children to have a few things bump into you on Halloween night. I would just rather they be spirits from the “Light” side.
Hunt is the evangelization and catechetical advisor for Franciscan Communications/St. Anthony Messenger Press.