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?