Reflections on Halloween

Monsters, superheroes, witches, and princesses will soon prowl our streets looking to trick or treat. Historically, Halloween was a pagan holiday when people dressed up to scare off evil spirits. This comes from a lack of understanding at the time that the oncoming winter solstice was what brought longer nights and in turn the darkness-loving spirits. Today, Halloween is an unserious holiday, second to Christmas as a public holiday in terms of decorations and money spent. But surprisingly, it has a similar dichotomy. At once it is a consumerist and pagan distraction yet it draws us out of our houses into jovial conversations with our neighbors, some of whom we may never meet otherwise. And again that we are constantly being sold a materially rich but spiritually empty world, but our church has given us a day to remember those who have passed and to consider our own paths to salvation. And even though Halloween has pagan roots, Christianity has a long track record of assimilating pagan holidays, and in this case, integrating it with All Saints Day and All Souls Day. For Christians, it is a day where we look at death and our own mortality, ultimately, our own journey towards salvation.

Fr. Gary Thomas visited our teen group theIntersection, last week and gave a fascinating talk on his former work as an exorcist as well as the dangers of the occult. We should be wary and avoid Halloween events or media that glorify the satanic or celebrate immoral acts. This includes Ouija boards as well as fortune-telling, all examples of people putting faith into the occult rather than our Lord Jesus. An important distinction I realized was the difference between “scary” and “evil”. Bats, spiders, and other creepy crawlies aren’t satanic. Skeletons might decorate your neighbors’ front lawn yet we each have one. These things aren’t evil, but they remind us of our own fear of mortality. To be honest, I think that death is viewed rather clinically and somewhat taboo as a discussion topic in the modern world. This of course shuts off the discussion we could be having, death is a spiritual event.

This causes me to feel that All Saints Day and All Souls Day following is quite poetic. That we should look forward to our long journey and that even though the going will get rough, the end is wonderful enough to justify the suffering. Just take a look at our saints both recognized by our church and anonymous who are forgotten to history. All of them are beloved and blessed by God as examples of how to live our faith. That is apparent to me in our hospitality to oddly dressed strangers and adults’ willingness to reward them with treats every year, on this once serious pagan holiday. And in our compassion to all the souls in purgatory for whom we pray for on All Souls Day. So even as our days grow shorter and the nights grow long, we too shall find light again and so we have nothing to fear. This is a reminder of our own hope, hope in that after a lifetime of choices, we may also be welcomed into heaven.

—Reflection by Anton Pham