Halloween Memories

Source: almanac.com

I have fond memories of my Halloweens when I was a child, especially in the early 1960s. I don’t recall if stores sold costumes. Maybe masks! I really don’t recall. No two people remember things the same way! In any event, we probably wouldn’t have been able to afford to buy costumes.

We had to get creative with old bed sheets, cardboard, paper, string, crayons and other things to make a costume. I grew up in a close-knit neighbourhood, so it was fairly common for hordes of us to descend on a house, brandishing pillowcases that were quickly filling with candy, apples, cookies and other treats.

I’m not sure if this memory is correct either, but I seem to recall getting home and watching my father sort through our haul, taking out the pieces that he preferred. Those days were so innocent! I’m often struck by that fact as I watch children try to make their way in this culture – not just on Halloween, but concerning so many other facets of contemporary life.

We live in an entirely different environment today. It is anything but innocent. If I were a parent, I doubt that I’d be fun. I’d be reluctant to allow my children to roam the streets dressed in a costume. Also, it’s unlikely that they would have many companions to share the adventure with. And, what about others out trick or treating? Can I really trust that there is a child behind that mask?

Is that weapon that is part of the costume really just a plastic toy? Would I need to examine and X-ray every single treat, to make sure there are no blades or poisons given out by deranged neighbours? Do I really want my children to eat all that candy?

If I were a parent, I’d be tempted to go to a supermarket and purchase a load of relatively nutritious snacks and tell my children to avoid the fun of wandering through the neighbourhood. It’s no wonder that many parents forbid their children from trick or treating, except in the relatively safe environment of their classroom. But, maybe I shouldn’t try to shelter my children so much.

Another Halloween memory. I recall my diaconate ordination on October 31, 1987. It took place in the early evening at Our Lady of Lourdes Church on Sherbourne St in Toronto. After the Mass we all walked to Regis College, just west of Yonge St, for the reception. That meant crossing Yonge St.

Many of us were dressed in clerical attire. I’m sure that many of the Halloween revelers assumed we were just another group of trick or treaters dressed up for the evening.

There are some Christians who question whether we should celebrate a day that has become so secularized. But the Church has been celebrating Halloween for centuries. The real meaning of Halloween is All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints’ Eve. We are using humour and ridicule to confront the power of death.

We are about to enter into a month of remembering: the faithful departed, saints, martyrs, and veterans of wars. On Halloween, we are basically telling death that it has no lasting power over us. We just need to find ways to reclaim Halloween from our secular culture.

There are creative Christian groups that have devised alternative celebrations of this day. For instance, some people throw an All Saints’ Party. Instead of costumes of ghouls, the participants come dressed as saints. Who would you dress as?

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Barbara Lewis
    Posted at 07:06h, 31 October Reply

    I think adults should let kids be kids on Halloween.
    Let them dress up in costumes, go door to door, gather lots of treats and eat lots of treats.
    Adults can rearrange Halloween to make Halloween adult. Do that on your own time.
    Celebrate the gift your parents gave you when you were a kid. Accompany kids you know in their kid Halloween.

  • John Montague
    Posted at 08:18h, 31 October Reply

    John Veltri s.j. funeral was this day in 2008. Some of us thought how fitting it was that it happened on Halloween. I still miss him.

  • Jeanette Woodley
    Posted at 10:03h, 31 October Reply

    I would dress as St. Therese of Lisieux or St. Catherine of Siena.

  • Jim Radde
    Posted at 10:27h, 31 October Reply

    You bring back memories. I once went to a Saints party dressed in my homemade
    St. Jude costume. I had a holy card of Jude so I knew exactly what to look like.
    Jim Radde

  • Lorraine Majcen
    Posted at 11:22h, 31 October Reply

    Oh I like that idea Fr Philip. An all Saints party. I have been very conflicted about Halloween, even though I supported my children dressing up and trick or treating. Oh yes, and I would consider dressing up as St Mother Teresa of Calcutta, my heroine!!

  • Caroline Maloney
    Posted at 14:30h, 31 October Reply

    Thank you for bringing back those good memories, Philip, of Halloween! I remember those costumes made of old sheets, or whatever crazy stuff we could find, and the pillow case, to collect the loot! Didn’t want to return home until that pillow case was filled; and we felt safe out there wherever we went!
    I began to appreciated the deeper meaning of All Hallows’ Eve much later in life, and “the communion of saints”. Thank you for reminding us, as you do so clearly and simply, “we are using humour to confront the power of death”.
    Happy All Hallows’ Eve, Fr. Philip!

  • Esther Gilbert
    Posted at 17:17h, 31 October Reply

    I remember.
    Happy anniversary, Philip♥️

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