Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Short Halloween Rant

Today is Halloween, or for those traditionalists out there, All Hallows Eve. Not a bad day to put a jack-o-lantern in the window, put out a bowl of cream for your local hob or nob, and read some ghost stories around the fireplace. (Except here in Texas where it'll be 80 degrees today.)

The girls are eager to go to the parish Halloween party and lark about with their friends in princess costumes. And here, unfortunately, is where the rant comes in. Because the party at the parish tonight is not a Halloween party -- it's an All Saints Day Party. One is not supposed to come as a princess or fairy or night or (as our eldest ambitiously proposed) Lyle the Crocodile, but rather as one's favorite saint. Every year some people flaunt this and come in normal custumes, which is probably what will happen with us this year, but I'm assured by the daughter-in-law of one of the organizers that, "It really drives them nuts when people do that."

I don't have anything against the idea of having a saints themed costume party on All Saints Day -- there's no real tradition behind it, but it's not a bad idea. However, All Saints Day is Nov. 1st, not Oct. 31st. And I'm not really sure why we as Catholics should feel the need to counter-program against Halloween parties. Certain Protestant groups, certainly, are convinced that all that surrounds Halloween is evil superstition, but there's no reason for Catholics to go off the deep end about this stuff.

Indeed, as a Catholic, it annoys me a bit to see All Hallows Eve (with all of the cultural texture that originally surrounded that day) turned into an All Saints Day party. Not that modern American Halloween is much in touch with older traditions surrounding All Hallows Eve, but if we're going to insist on changing it as Catholics, we should get in touch with some original All Hallows Eve traditions, not do a All Saints counter program to American Halloween.


Anonymous said...

Ah yes, the Puritanical division of Catholicism strikes again! We have friends who are throwing such a party. I suggested that we could compromise and have all the kids show up as their favorite martyr--Lawrence complete with stripes from the BBQ grill, Thomas More carrying his own head, Dismas still nailed to a cross, Lucy carrying her eyes and a white cane--unfortunately, that was a bit too Catholic.


The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

Ooh! Posted my Halloween rant just this morning. Serendipity. Or the work of the spirits.

The co-op my daughter takes a class at just had a Saints party. Offspring #1 went as Melchizidek: robe, beard, sandals, and a basket with a bottle of wine and lots of bagels (hey, the Jewish people had to have gotten the idea from somewhere, right?).

But we're sure not going to skip the full American Halloween fling this evening.

The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

ETA: There was a princess at the Saints party. She told me with a straight face that she was St. Helen. Worked for me....

bearing said...

I am a proponent of making the point that Halloween and All Saints Day are connected. So I am in favor of All Saints parties that are inclusive of non-specific-saint costumes (e.g. witch, ghost, princess).

October 31 evening is, in fact, All Saints' Day. It is the vigil eve. And so an All Saints' Day party held on the evening of October 31 is entirely appropriate.

Anonymous said...

Darwin wrote, "However, All Saints Day is Nov. 1st, not Oct. 31st. And I'm not really sure why we as Catholics should feel the need to counter-program against Halloween parties."

I thought everyone knew this, but Halloween is the counter-program to All Saints Day.

So they are connected. The feast of All Saints is the point. That's why Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenburg on October 31.

Don't be afraid -- these are very teachable moments here.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. Don't even get me started...or Dan for that matter.

Darwin said...

I thought everyone knew this, but Halloween is the counter-program to All Saints Day.

Well, they're connection in the sense that people's ideas about All Saints Day and the way in which less saintly creatures might respond to the impending feast on the eve of the feast formed All Hallows Eve mythology and traditions, but that doesn't mean that Halloween is "anti" All Saints Day.

bearing said...

Yes -- Halloween isn't anti All Saints, but the two are very connected.

I like lumping them together for the purpose of children's parties.

Our Catholic homeschooling group has a "saints and scholars" pageant in mid-October, which is really convenient because the outfit doubles as a Halloween costume. Last year my boys were Roman soldiers/St. Mauritius.

(Turing word: credst. Credible Saint?)

Smiley said...

hey im a Catholic from India. This halo ween thing is not seen in the catholic church in India. Would you care to explain how this becomes a part of Catholic tradition if it is not celebrated by the church universally. Christmas the tridiuum, corpus christi etc are all celebrated universally by the Catholic church not haloween.

Darwin said...


Halloween as celebrated in the US is certainly not a Catholic (or religious) holiday. It's a secular (though I'd quite harmless) celebration of candy, costumes and spooky stories. I just don't think Catholics need to actively shrink away from Halloween as if it were somehow bad.

Now, it does have religious origins in that in scheduling and overall theme it springs from regional All Hallows Eve (the eve of All Saints Day) traditions from the UK. But at this point it's not remotely religious.