Eve of All Saints

I've enjoyed the creative decorations in people's yards this year: graveyards with skeletons emerging, cobwebbed porches, and various Jack'o'lantern light displays.

But three trends in Halloween decor mildly perturb me.

The first is the rampant commercialization of the holiday- you can now find gingerbread haunted house kits, for example- as though this were another kind of Christmas. A friend of mine was just making this point; there didn't used to be orange Christmas lights and giving gifts instead of treats.

The second is the absence of children having fun. More parents are hosting indoor parties or schools have costume events with games indoors. The thrill of running loose through the neighborhood collecting candy from your neighbors has been violated by the helicopter parents and their kneejerk paranaoia.

The third trend I observe is an increasingly darker obsession with the macabre aspects of Halloween, verging on something occult. We seem to be forgetting entirely that this is a Christian holiday to honor the Hallowed Ones, the saints.

The Dominican House of Studies in DC has reclaimed the evening vigil as it should properly be understood. Greenfield Village does charming events called Halloweekends wherein they capture the old-fashioned good time I remember from childhood. And some schools dress in saint costumes to instill something countercultural.

I have posted about this topic before, defending the holiday against Puritan snobs and Wiccan idiots both. Neither response adequately captures the real grace of this day. We need this time to mock the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. If we can't laugh at them, we give them creedence with our fear. If we don't believe in them, we give them creedence by our ambivalence. What sin has wrought should scare us; and then we can share a laugh at its expense. For death has lost its sting. Let's put on face paint and rejoice!

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