Hallowe'en is almost here, and there are some canards and spoofs associated with this great day that I'd like to do my part to dispel:
> Hallowe'en is a Christian festival--not something evil.
"Hallowe'en" is a contraction of hallow even, reminding that it is the eve of "All Hallows" or All Saints. The Church always designates the night before a feast as a vigil, and All Saints is no different.
Yes, there are those who choose to associate Hallowe'en with pre-Christian celebrations and rituals--the same thing is brought up in relation to Christmas and Easter, and actually could probably be done with any celebration throughout the year, but that proves nothing more than that pre-Christian religions and cultures had rituals and celebrations throughout the year; it is inevitable that Christian feasts would coincide with some of them, and someone would notice similarities.
Sometimes those similarities arise from the time of year: it is only natural that cultures would have commemorations and feasts attached to seasons, planting, harvest, life and death. Indeed, it would be very odd if--when Christianity came on the scene--that it would somehow avoid noticing the very things that pagans had noticed and incorporated into their rituals.
In this post (http://frmartinfox.blogspot.com/2008/11/all-souls-day-only-falls-on-sunday.html) I talk about the origins of trick-or-treating and costumes; short version? Neither comes from paganism, but different events in the Christian era.
> What about all the emphasis on ghouls and witches and so forth?
None of that comes from the holiday; any more than elves have any real connection to the birth of Jesus Christ. It's what happens as society takes one of our Christian days and makes of it what it will.
I don't care for a lot of the focus on dark themes associated with secular Hallowe'en, any more than I like St. Patrick's day being made about leprechauns and drunkenness; but I won't give up the day because others go the wrong way with it.
Someone in my parish--you know who you are!--points out the supreme irony of what many of our fellow Christians do with Hallowe'en: they avoid discussion of the saints, and because they don't want to delve into the dark stuff from the world, they turn it into...a harvest celebration! I.e., right back to paganism!
Instead, let's remember what Hallowe'en really is: a day to celebrate the power of Christ's grace to transform people; we celebrate the countless saints already in heaven, and we anticipate when all God's Elect will be saints united with Christ in the new Creation.
> Don't worry about your kids.
This time of year urban legends circulate, claiming one or more of the following: (a) sometimes candy is poisoned or adulterated with needles or razors; (b) children are in danger being out trick-or-treating from predators.
Here's an item from the Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304915104575572642896563902.html?mod=djemEditorialPage_h
...pointing out the dubiousness of these claims.
Here are two articles at Snopes.com, a great site for factually debunking all those urban legends and hoaxes that get wide circulation:
If you don't care to go there, I'll summarize: they could not document a single case of deliberate poisoning of hallowe'en candy aimed at trick-or-treaters; there were very occasional accidents, and a couple of murders aimed at specific people, in which "poisoned hallowe'en candy" was the murderer's trumped up cover story. And you'll find that while there have been reports of candy with razors or needles, almost every case seems to be kids who did it themselves as a prank either to scare another child, or to prank their parents.
Of course, no one can "prove" that this has never, or never can, happen.
And, of course, whether you allow your children to go trick-or-treating is up to you.
But my thought is, let the kids have fun!
Sure, they don't have to eat all the candy. (And isn't it a shame that no one gives out apples and popcorn balls and cookies anymore? Those would seem to be healthier treats than prepackaged candy bars) But I hope parents don't promptly dump it in the garbage, that teaches terrible lessons! Better not to accept the candy; or else give it to someone who will enjoy it, or enjoy it in moderation.
And who says the kids have to wear bad costumes? Why not have your children dress up like a saint? It's not that hard, and it doesn't have to cost a lot of money, and it can spark some creativity. At one All Saints party, I suggested to a boy that he should be St. John the Apostle the next year: I told him how the Apostle John had detected poison in a cup of wine, and thus he was often shown holding a chalice with a snake emerging. So here's your St. John the Apostle costume:
1. A sheet (worn as a Greek-style tunic)
2. A cup
3. A rubber snake
He liked it. I have a feeling, with a little prompting, your kids can come up with far more clever ideas than I can!
P.S. Biretta-tip to Instapundit.com, where I saw the WSJ item I mention above.