It all depends on how we celebrate it. Some simple guidelines can help. Halloween began as a way for ancient pagan peoples to celebrate the harvest and to stave off the trepidations of the perilous winter ahead. Life was extremely hard in those days and many superstitions arose around their fears of darkness and death. Long before the days of electricity houses were lit only by meager oil lamps or candles which cast eerie shadows in the deepest dark.
By the 1800’s Christianity became a strong cultural and moral voice. Pope Boniface IV replaced these festivals of the dead with a church-sanctioned All Saints Day on November 1st. It is still a Holy Day of Obligation for our Catholic friends. On this day the lives of the saints and martyrs of the church are honored.
The American tradition of “trick or treating” goes back to English All Soul’s Parades where poor citizens would beg for food. More fortunate families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in exchange for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives.
For many decades the American celebration Halloween was increasingly focused on fun family gatherings, neighborhood trick-or-treating for small children and harvest celebrations. However in more recent times it has become a huge commercial “boo”m! Consumers are expected to spend $9.1 billion for Halloween this year. It is no longer a holiday just for children, with 8 in 10 millennials saying they are already planning something fun with their friends. Gruesome and suggestive adult costumes are big business. Sales of elaborate decorations and house displays which are running a close second to Christmas. It has become an adult holiday with Concerns about safety briefly stemmed the tide but like or not Halloween is here to stay.
Being mindful of a few simple guidelines can allow our children and grandchildren to enjoy the holiday without diminishing our Christian ideals and faith.
Handy Halloween Guidelines
- Remember to emphasize the opportunities to give rather than how much one can get. Do not permit your trick-or-treaters to use pillowcases or shopping bags. They will more fully enjoy the experience by stopping at a few houses (preferably neighbors or friends) and getting a little candy. Participate in UNICEF or other charitable activities. It is a great time to do family mission projects.
- Avoid ghoulish or macabre masks, costumes, movies or decorations. Christ was the one who rose from the dead – not Dracula or Zombies.
- Focus on family and friends. This is a great opportunity for a simple get-together with neighbors you may have been too busy to see regularly.
- Emphasize creativity in costuming. Allow your child(ren) to create their own with guidance.(see #2) They may wish to be a hobo for the 3rd year in a row when you had your heart set on that adorable astronaut costume that would surely win a prize.
- Donate last year’s costumes to a second hand clothing store BEFORE the holiday. Many families would welcome the selection and price break.
- Consider buying candy for financially strapped families, singles or elderly persons and deliver well before They may have a large number of trick-or-treaters but a small budget.
- Offer to help someone who lives alone hand out candy. Having strangers come to your door can cause concern for those who live alone. Offer to hand out candy while the adults accompany the children treat-or-treating.
- Keep it in perspective. One evening of high spirits, a few black cats, witches and ghosts will not denigrate your child’s faith in God. They will take their cue from you. If you continue to stand strong in your faith and refrain from giving the holiday undue macabre attention they will take it in stride as well.
- Remember… Jesus is with us always… even on Halloween.