[The original version of this post appeared October 30, 2010.]
My first fiction novel, Hollow, has Halloween as a central theme and touches on both the light and dark faces of this increasingly popular celebration.
Halloween is a controversial holiday for many Christians. Feelings about this observance range all the way from fear and loathing of it’s satanic overtones to glee at the idea of candy, costumes and fond childhood memories.
Anyone who has done any research into the origins of this autumn custom cannot deny that it has some of its roots in paganism and superstition, if not outright devil worship and witchcraft.
However, by the time my own childhood Halloweens arrived, all the day meant to me and my peers was one special time when we could set aside our everyday selves and step out of some of life’s rules and routines.
We could wear different clothes and pretend to be another person entirely. Children who were taught never to ask for treats were encouraged to go door-to-door threatening dire tricks if we weren’t paid off in candy and homemade goodies…and folks greeted us with smiles and praise for our costumes. Some invited us in and took pictures.
Children who were usually admonished to be home before dark were suddenly allowed to roam the night streets in raucous packs, even playing pranks and indulging in mild mischief without fear of retribution.
We could eat sickening amounts of candy, stay up late and be as silly as we liked, knowing that the next day everything would be back to normal.
Our culture today is not so simple and safe as in my small-town childhood. There are real dangers for children wandering dark streets. Parents wisely accompany their little ones on Trick-or-Treat and examine the treats carefully before doling them out in healthy quantities. The wild innocence of a few decades ago simply doesn’t exist.
Not celebrating Halloween or celebrating some Christian alternative has become a witness to one’s faith in some communities and churches, while not celebrating at all, on religious grounds, is deemed narrow-minded and prudish in others.
Personally, I can no longer feel comfortable with the day. I hand out candy to the children in the neighborhood, but don’t put up decorations.
I am repelled by the Halloween trees decorated with orange lights, bats and skulls in what seems a mockery of Christmas, yet I crave the taste of caramel apples and popcorn balls and happily coo over my grand daughters in their costumes.
I am ambivalent, abhorring the thought of giving support to superstition, paganism or even commercialism, yet nostalgic for the magic evenings of memory.
Today’s Halloween: trick or treat?