Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The True Spirit of Halloween

Most folks have forgotten about the true meaning of Halloween. Caught up in conspicuous consumption, people try to outdo one another in the amount of goodies handed out, the garishness of their decorations and even the cost of their costumes. Few seem to remember what this holiday is all about.

For those who care, Halloween is All Hallows Eve, the night before All Saints’ Day. It’s a time for Christians to embrace the notions of family, community and respect for the dead. This last notion seems to be entirely lost in the modern version of Halloween. In fact, people seem to go out of their way to make fun of the dead with their front lawn graveyards and their elaborate costumes of ghouls, ghosts and goblins.

I, for one, long for the days when we would all gather around the family pumpkin, honor the dead and give thanks for family and the bountiful pumpkin harvest. Or something like that. It’s been so long that the details are a little fuzzy. But it was definitely a more meaningful ceremony than today’s mass genuflection at the alter of sugar-filled treats.

Is this the way we want to raise our children? Do we want to not only condone but encourage disrespect for the dead? Can we really justify stuffing them full of unhealthy, high-calorie snacks?

And what sort of message are we giving our kids when they can roam from neighborhood to neighborhood getting free handouts? This is nothing more than a tacit endorsement of creeping socialism, the dreaded scourge of our society. With this kind of training, today’s children will grow up to have all kinds of unreasonable expectations like universal healthcare and an increased minimum wage.

There is nothing wrong with materialism ‘per se’ but materialism without capitalism is just plain wrong. If we are to continue this annual candy free-for-all then we should at least couch it in terms we can all admire and respect.

We don’t want our kids to get the idea that they can get something for nothing. Instead, let’s make kids pay for the candy we give them or at least perform some household chores as payment in kind. For example, they could do a bit of weeding for a chocolate bar or clean off the dried egg on the car windshield in return for a bag or two of chips.

It’s probably unreasonable to expect everyone to acknowledge and celebrate the religious significance of Halloween. After all, apparently we’re no longer all Christians. For better or worse, Halloween has become secularized. But let’s not allow it to fall forever into the hands of those who would simply exploit it for cultural and commercial gain.

That’s why I intend to turn my back on the spectacle that Halloween has become. I will respect All Hallows Eve for what it was intended to be. No costumes or candy or parties for me. In order to preserve the traditional meaning of the holiday, I intend to quietly celebrate at home in the basement with the curtains drawn and the lights turned off. Happy Halloween.

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