What Can Halloween Teach Us?

What can Halloween teach us?  If you ask people “What’s your favorite Halloween Memory?”, you’re going to get a varity of answers.  Some will reflect on their favorite costume they wore as a child.  Others will remember time with their famlies or parties with friends.  I share in all of these types of Halloween memories.  But none of them are my favorite.  

The Most Memorable Halloween

The Halloween I remember most is one from years ago when my wife was pregnant with our daughter.  I was not working that night, which was a happy conicidence.  I didn’t get many nights off during the week, and my scheduled day off just happened to fall on the correct day that year.  

We were enjoying the night.  My son had been out trick-or–treating, and was now back at the house with us handing out candy.  We were inside our living room with the front door open, and the screen door closed.  All of a sudden, we heard a cat yelling outside the door.

Is It Even A Cat?

We all got up to investigate.  My wife was the first one to see the cat.  It looked, in her words, disgusting.  It was dirty, covered in sticks and twigs, and looked quite wild.  As we got closer though, the cat began to look familiar.  It resembled one of our two cats at the time.  I think my wife even said out loud “That kind of looks like Pumpkin!”.  

More trick-or-treaters were coming to the door in waves now.  We had to make a decision.  “Quick!” my wife told my son “throw the cat in the house! Then go count how many cats we have.  If there are three, throw the dirty one back out!”. My son dutifily obeyed and began searching out cats.

What Can Halloween Teach Us?

Sure enough, there were only two cats in the house.  It turned out that our cat Pumpkin had learned how to remove the screen from our front window, and had gone exploring!  We managed to get him cleaned up, and make sure all of our screens were secure.  We always made sure after that to keep an eye on Pumpkin around any open window!

Christians Have An Awkward Relationship With Halloween

Christians dealing with Halloween in America kind of remind me of that adventure with our cat Pumpkin.  We don’t quite know what to do with it. The Holiday seems to be a bit of a mess, and we don’t exactly have a clear idea of where it came from.  We cautiously invite it into our homes, ready to throw it out at the first sign it doesn’t belong.

David made an excellent point in his article earlier this week that I think is worth exploring a bit more.  All of our current holidays celebrate something good or positive.  Halloween is the only one that delves into the darkness a bit.  It’s like getting permisssion to be a bit naughty for once.  I had a professor that said after Easter was over on Holy Week he would go home and watch The Godfather.  “It’s all just too much goodness” he told me. “I need to bring myself back down to earth”. 

Too Much Goodness?

I kind of get where he was coming from though.  Goodness and holiness always seems to make us uneasy.  As odd as it is, we tend to look down on those that try and live virtuous lives.  We are much more accepting of the rock star on drugs who sleeps around than we are of a Tim Tebow trying to maintain his virginity.  We root for those that uphold virtue to fail.  When a celebrity converts to Christianity, they’re immediately met with suspicion or scorn.  Sometimes without realizing it, we seem to want evil to win. 

And while we as Christians rightly view Christmas and Easter as good celebrations, there is a part of us that recognizes the state of our souls probably better resembles Halloween than that of Easter or Christmas.  At times, evil is more comforatable to be around.  And this holiday in particular seems to give us permission to explore the less desirable parts of our nature.  

Where Do We Go From Here?

So what should our take away from Halloween be?  I think that it’s a good reminder that evil is out there.  Some aspects of evil we have control over.  Specifically that which is in our own lives. Other evil requires help to deal with.  But ultimately, Halloween is a reminder that evil can be, and has been, overcome. The beauty of Halloween is that shortly after it’s over, we are presented with the celebration of the birth of the One that conquers all evil.  

This is how most of the traditions and horror stories end after all.  The spirits return to their graves.  The villian in the movie is defeated (well, maybe after 7 or 8 sequels, but eventually they’re done in!). The living and the dead go their separate ways.  As G. K. Chesteron once wrote:

“Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon. Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.”

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