Saturday, October 22, 2005

Does Hallowe'en Scare You?

Sykes has noted that there's a movement which wishes to dump the observance of Hallowe'en (the Eve of All Hallows.) He correctly surmises that there's something afoot. Yup.

A little history:

The celebration of the day is Celtic and Christian. It is the dying time of the year, with the harvest almost all in now, and even the green leaves of summer suddenly blazing into brilliant color and then dropping to the ground. The days are growing notably colder and shorter. It is the appropriate time to recall our dead, to think about, and to pray for the all the dead. The merry season of Christmas lies ahead. But, as the liturgical year winds down over the next 5 weeks, let us pause to recall death. It is the first of the Four Last Things, after all.

If part of thinking about it is reading old gothic ghost stories over a mug of mulled cider by candlelight in the privacy of one's study, or watching movies about ghosts, witches, vampires, werewolves, and monsters, or impressing the imagination of children by decorating a "haunted house" and handing out enough candy to make them spit out teeth the next day, or carving pumpkins in imitation of the Irish custom of the carved turnip of Jack of the Lantern, or burning leaves at night, there is no harm in it.

But the experience is made richer by remembering the saints of the Church on All Hallows' Day itself, and by praying for the dead, our dead, and the forgotten, unknown poor souls in Purgatory throughout November. And if dressing up as ghosts in bedsheets (I used the "Charlie Brown" costume once or twice as a kid) and going door to door like the people in Celtic villages who dressed up as those who had died during the year did to seek propitiary offerings, or those who, in Christian times, performed the luck-visit ritual of going a'souling, then it is a start. The important thing is to get people to start to remember the dead. Then build on that foundation. Just getting them to think of the dead as something other than inventory for a graveyard and an object of horror is a necessary start. We will all die, and will want to be remembered and prayed for. Purgatory is no easy thing, if we are lucky enough to get there. So remember the dead, and pray for them, because in time you may be that poor forgotten soul in Purgatory.

I would quibble: the celebration is CATHOLIC.

Those who would denude ghosts and goblins from Hallowe'en are doing exactly what the Puritan/Whig "Reformers" did in the days of Elizabeth I--stripping the world of symbol. Those little ghosts and goblins remind us of the souls in Purgatory.

For that matter, the self-proclaimed "witches" and "warlocks" who are attempting to claim the day as their own would seem to have a better grasp of the history: the Devil is perfectly happy to transform these days into his own, as he is perfectly happy to ask of you only one thing: your soul.

The fact that this date has become Hershey's best day is mildly disturbing, yes. But not nearly so disturbing as the attempt to deprive us of remembrance of the dead--commemorated on November 1st (All Saints' (Hallows) Day) and November 2nd, All Souls' Day.

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