It’s that time of year again … when autumn leaves begin to crackle, scents of apple and cinnamon fill the kitchen, and howls of Christian indignation over Halloween split the silence. What’s a faithful Christian to do when his kid pleads to take part in the annual Free Candy Fest? Should he let his kid dress up in the Most Popular Costume of the Year and beg treats from the neighbors? Should he make the child dress up as a saint and go to an All Saints’ Eve Party? But what if he’s not a Catholic and doesn’t believe in letting his kid admire saints? Perhaps he should honor the Great Pumpkin by throwing a Celebration Of Autumn Day or honor Martin Luther on Protestant Reformation Day?
Personally, even before I became Catholic, I never saw why there was such confusion over Halloween. It was just a day for little kids to dress up and charm the neighbors into forking over miniature chocolate bars. For older kids and grownups, it was a time to indulge in a little black humor. A relative of mine, when she hit the age in between being too old for kiddie costumes and yet still young enough to enjoy trying to shock adults, dressed up as Jason from the Friday the 13th movies, wore a sign that said "Friday the 13th, Part 12: Jason Raids the Animal Shelter," and carried a stuffed-toy "Pound Puppy" tied to a length of rope. (You’ll be happy to know that she is now a well-adjusted wife, mother, and contributor to society.) After seeing that, I really could not get freaked out by kids dressing up as spooks and hobgoblins.
But now that I am a practicing Catholic, I do realize that not everyone, especially every Christian, is comfortable with allowing such, uh, dark creativity for their own children. (To be clear, in retrospect, I too would be uncomfortable allowing children of mine to pick out costumes of the type my relative chose that year.) Saints’ day parties, fall festivals, and, for Protestants, Reformation Day celebrations are perfectly reasonable alternatives to the traditional Halloween activities. One Christian company in New Zealand is even offering a "Light Party":
"When Halloween comes along, we face a tradition that encourages poor behaviour, ‘rewards on demand’ by trick or treating and celebrates evil by wearing scary masks or costumes.
"Many parents are not happy about this negative influence and are looking for a positive alternative …
"Are you looking for a celebration to bring your community together? Now you too can help to bring your church and community together to celebrate all that is good on October 31 with a Light Party™!"
I just wish that all of these people busily searching for alternatives to Halloween traditions that they feel are no longer appropriate for Christian families would realize that they are reinventing the light bulb. Halloween began as a Christian alternative to the prevailing pagan autumn holidays. Halloween originally was a Christian light struck in the darkness; not the darkness itself. Rather than eradicate Halloween, perhaps the job of Christians ought to be to reclaim it.
UPDATE: I goofed in naming the horror series that inspired my relative’s costume. It was Friday the 13th, not Halloween. I’ve fixed the post. Nod and gratitude to the reader who caught my error.