Thursday, October 22, 2009

In Defense of Halloween

I love Halloween. I always have. The beautiful setting of the colorful leaves of fall, the harvest time of pumpkins and apples, the crispness in the air. Being born with a theatrical nature, I adore costumes, makeup, wigs, hats and props. And of course as a child, who didn't love the candy.

I always loved being Catholic on Halloween. Because it is the Eve of All Saint's, a Holy Day of Obligation, we did not have to go to school on the day following the night's festivities.

Throughout my life, I have encountered other Christians who do not share my love of All Hallow's Eve. Some try to temper the day by banning the ghostly and ghastly costumes or having Saint costumes in lieu of Disney Characters and Super Heroes, others call it the Festival of the Harvest, still others refuse to participate at all. I respect their right to celebrate whatever Holidays they choose, but I believe that Halloween is in fact a Very Christian holiday.

I think it is important, for the benefit of our children, to examine the Christian nature of this wonderful time of year. What exactly are we celebrating? What are all the ghosts, goblins and jack-o-lanterns intended to bring to our mind?

Prior to the Risen Christ, death was scary. In fact, after the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden, death had won an incredible victory. Satan had tempted God's most precious creatures into abandoning His presence to walk on their own. The victorious Satan had helped to banish man from Eden. But God in His goodness placed an angel to guard the Tree of Everlasting Life. Though man had eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the belief that such power would allow him to define what is good and evil rather than follow the objective laws of God, the angel with his sword would prevent him from returning to make his punishment everlasting.

God would win in the end. Man's fall from Grace would not be eternal but would be remedied by the Incarnation. Christ's death and resurrection changed death forever. On Easter Sunday, death ceased to be a victory for Satan. Christ conquered death.

The laughing face of the Jack-o-lantern symbolizes this fact. He is laughing at death. He knows that death no longer holds the place of victory. Death is no longer an enemy of the living, but the means to eternal life with God. The candy is the representation of the sweetness of that life everlasting.

The ghosts, goblins, grim reapers are also a big joke. They no longer hold any power over the living because of the love of the risen Christ. We let them pretend on this one night to still have some power over us, but we are laughing at them as we do the jester on their right and the harlequin on their left.

With the rising of the sun on November 1, we begin the celebration of the Saints in Heaven: Those who have conquered death and are now in the eternal presence of God. The following day, we celebrate the Feast of all Souls. The day we dedicate to prayers for those who have died and are being purified in purgatory in order to meet their Lord and Savior.

Halloween is the first celebration of this trilogy. We mock death, celebrate eternal life, and pray for the salvation of our fellow man. All three together present an opportunity for us to reflect on our own Christian life. Halloween reminds us of the opportunity we now have because of the gift of the Risen Lord, All Saint's reminds us of our goal of everlasting life and how it is now attainable, All Souls reminds us of our need for atonement and grace to live forever in the presence of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Halloween is a celebration, not of evil, but of the conquering of evil by Christ. It is at its heart a joyful celebration of Christ's victory over death. We, like the Jack-o-lantern can now see the joke. We can laugh with the Saints in heaven, for we as Christians know, God is the final victor and we the beneficiaries.

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