Fall Festival. Family Fun Carnival.
They seem benign and innocuous, but they’re not. They’re subtle and subversive.
Right now, behind closed doors, the producers of these signs are scheming and planning, arming themselves with misrepresentative characterizations like “pagan” and “heathen” and crafting adjectival condemnations like “blasphemous,” “demonic,” and “evil.”
There are many things that local Bible-thumpers have lined up to stop or prohibit in the last few years. Abortion and gay marriage get most of the press, but another prohibition is becoming increasingly widespread and equally nefarious. Silently and unobtrusively, Christian naysayers are boycotting Halloween.
Every year, fewer and fewer homes are decorated and fewer folks are inclined to hand out Halloween treats. Some people even turn out their lights and pretend they’re not home.
It’s nothing anyone has said aloud. It’s probably not even something the naysayers want much attention brought to. But it’s happening. Halloween is slowly being snatched up and replaced by “wholesome” religious gatherings.
When I was a kid, I trick-or-treated all over Fort Worth. My parents drove me from neighborhood to neighborhood. Some years, we would make sure we returned to streets where residents had gone the extra mile, converting their garages into dungeons or placing coffins on their front porches. Halloween was alive and well.
These days the fun is being repudiated by religious detractors. They’re not picketing or publicly condemning Halloween. It’s more like a “whisper” campaign. They’re surreptitiously intimating that Halloween is the devil’s work, that it’s a heretical, pantheistic ritual that has no place in Christendom, that the observance of it encourages witchcraft and black magic. And pursuant to these outrageous assertions, they’re refraining from decorating their houses, refusing to pass out candy, and – much to the chagrin of even their own children – excluding themselves and their families from the trick-or-treat festivities.
At the risk of sounding like a “godless” pagan, this really gets my cloven-hoofed goat. Do we really want to discuss inappropriate holidays? Christmas has become a frenzy of reckless materialism, its merriment now measured (especially for children) in terms of buying power. The stacks of expensive toys unwrapped in even some middle-class homes on Christmas Day borders on the obscene. Valentine’s Day is simply another chance for merchants to push candy and flowers, a ho-hum homage to romantic love at a time when relationships are more unromantic and unstable than they’ve ever been. Easter is a pagan fertility festival (a bunny rabbit goes around laying eggs for children to snatch up in baskets?) masquerading as a Christian religious observance. The Fourth of July is a fireworks extravaganza that mimics battlefield explosions and ultimately devolves into a few patriotic political keynotes that remind us that we’ve got to kill somebody to maintain our way of life. And Thanksgiving is a binge of gluttony and sloth – we eat too much, take naps, vegetate in front of football games, and nod through dull conversations with relatives we wrote off years ago.
Halloween, on the other hand, is a celebration of imagination, light-hearted mischief, and the child-like yearnings in us all. For one night a year, kids can be whomever they want and occupy fables, transport themselves through time, reign as larger-than-life heroes and thwart wily bogeymen. For one night a year, the drab routines that we more or less force our children to observe are hogtied by arcane intangibles, tantalizing fears, and enchanting possibilities. It’s open season on parental constraints and stodgy adults. Finally and fleetingly, children are in control, and they come to your door calling the shots, giving you those two savory options: trick or treat. The normal rules don’t apply. And it’s not a bad thing; it’s a good thing.
It should delight us to think there is still magic in the world. Halloween affirms this possibility and reminds us all to cherish the darkness, the mystery, and the wishful spirit in us all.
If you choose to ignore Halloween’s mystic frolics, know that you do so at your own peril. If you deny your kids or your grandkids the joy of Halloween, wee evil spirits may trample your shrubbery. If you hide in your house and refuse to answer the door, witches and ghouls may kick over your trash. If you skip out and drag the kids to the local adult-monitored Family Fun Festival, a pack of young heathens may toilet paper your house.
The choice is yours. Nyah-haha.
E.R. Bills is a local construction worker and freelance writer.