Just before leaving Fargo yesterday to head into the Big Woods of northern Minnesota, I read a fellow blogger’s post that prompted additional thought. Prairie Woman had introduced the subject of Halloween (10/22) and her personal experiences with the darker side of life. I applaud her honesty in discussing what was a difficult chapter in her journey through this world. I think it’s important that we parents consider such things like Halloween and the deeper meanings of holidays since, in one way or another, our children take part in some way, even if only by watching commercials on television or driving past yards on which little paper tree-ghosts fly. It’s wise of us to be aware of the many ways our children can lose their foothold and fall down that slippery slope if we’re not vigilant or fail to recognize or make them aware of true dangers (which are often disguised).
It’s times like this that I feel particularly grateful our children attend a school that can and does address such subjects as Halloween very appropriately (in my opnion, anyway). Keep in mind, this is a parochial school, and our children attend it not because we can afford to (because we barely can) but because we believe our children are not just physical beings but spiritual beings as well, and as such, we want their education to encompass as much of their whole selves as possible. But back to the main point. Each year around this time of year, our principal includes a message about Halloween in our school newsletter, noting that our school stresses the Christian tradition of Halloween. “The early Christians took a pagan custom of dressing up on this day not to scare off evil spirits (as did the pagans who did not believe in God), but to say, ‘Death, you have no hold on us. We have the Great Gift of Jesus Christ who gives us life after Death.'” The newsletter notes that an old name for All Saints’ Day was Hallowmas, “hallow” being another word for saint, and that the Eve of All Saints was called All Hallow’s Eve, i.e., Halloween.
In that “spirit,” our school celebrates Halloween not with scary costumes and masks celebrating death, but with the costumes of saints or other non-scary creatures and people to celebrate the victory of life. The day includes a prayer service to continue the celebration. Finally, our principal suggests (as is noted in the Leaders Manual for Catholic Students) that families keep their Jack-O-‘Lanterns burning from October 31 through November 2, three nights of holy light. “We decorate our homes with spooky images and we tell stories of ghosts and goblins because, as Christians, we have the last laugh. In Christ, we have nothing to fear.” In addition, “Trick or Treat” can be another name for hospitality. “When we open our doors, who will we greet? It may be Christ! Like trick or treaters at the end of the night, one day we will remove our masks and lay aside our soiled clothes. And we will see ourselves as we truly are, the children of God arrayed like the saints in bright glory.”
Knowing that history helped me approach Halloween in a new way. It does not dismiss the very real fact that many kids love dressing up during this time of year and enjoy the fun spirit of the Halloween season. It empowers us Christians to not let the dark side have the last word, because light always prevails; always. Instead of causing undue fear in our children, we can propel them toward the light and assure them of our love and care so that they will stay on that bright road of hope. Though doing so is not without its challenges, it’s nice to know we have options and that we don’t have to allow the dark to take away our light.
Whether you “celebrate” Halloween or not, I hope you will give your children an extra hug tonight and every night. They are precious and only on loan to us for a short while.