Saturday, October 8, 2016

Keep The "Hallowed" In Halloween

    Autumn has officially begun, and here in Northern New England you can feel and see it: cool days, cold nights, and bright flashes of colorful leaves set against deep blue skies.  Halloween might still be a few weeks away, but it sure feels like it’s almost here. In the retail stores, with a wide array of ghastly, ghoulish, and gory Halloween accessories on display, it looks like it.  Given that, it seems like a good time for a Halloween rant.

Jesus shows Satan who's boss: "The Temptation of Christ on the Mountain"
by Duccio di Buoninsegna
    Let me hasten to add that I am not anti-Halloween on principle; I have defended the holiday in the past against the spurious charge that it is merely a remnant of our dark, pre-Christian, pagan past.  We do need to remember that Halloween is really Christian in origin.  It is a way in which believers can mock death and “the principalities, the powers, the world rulers of this present darkness, the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).  In making sport of the spawn of Satan we celebrate Christ’s Victory over Death (1 Corinthians 15:55-58).  That is, if we truly acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
    Here, however, is where we start to run into trouble with Halloween celebrations: even if it is not a product of pre-Christian paganism, what is the role of the holiday in a post-Christian society, a society that does not acknowledge the Lordship of Christ?  I was reminded of the relevance of this question the other day when I was in one of the aforementioned retail stores. I overheard a little boy who was admiring the creepy Halloween paraphernalia observe that in their house Halloween was by far the most important holiday, an observation smilingly confirmed by his mother. I had to ask myself, what exactly was this family celebrating? After all, whatever its Christian origin, All Hallow’s Eve is a mere afterthought compared to the great feasts of Easter, Christmas, and Epiphany (and any number of lesser celebrations) that go straight to the heart of the Mystery of Christ.  Anybody who doesn’t bother with those is unlikely to be observing Halloween as any sort of Christian holy day.

"Haunted Doll" Halloween decoration from Walmart.com
    The little boy’s comment also ties in with something I’ve noticed more and more over the past few decades: as Christian belief and observance have declined, Halloween celebrations have become increasingly more elaborate, and correspondingly more macabre. We have forgotten Christ’s Victory, and so are left with only Death and Corruption, apparently unchallenged. A society that celebrates death and corruption for its own sake is, I submit, a society in deep trouble.
    As I said at the outset, I am not against Halloween per se, and I don’t advocate its abolition.  I do suggest that we who are Christians observe it in its proper context, including its original function as the prelude to All Saints Day (which is why, after all, it is called “Hallow’s Eve”).  You have no doubt heard in recent years calls to “Keep Christ in Christmas”; let’s also keep the Hallowed in Halloween.