I want you all to know that I mean no personal offense in what I am about to say, so please realize that I love you all.
But I hate Halloween.
I probably get this from my mother, who also cannot stand this holiday.
I hate pretty much everything about it. I hate driving around in October to see yards decorated like graveyards, populated with devils, ghosts, demons, zombies, monsters – and worst of all: clowns. What is with this fascination with the horrible beings that inhabit our nightmares and should remain in hell where they are born? Skeletons, nooses dangling from trees, coffins, vampires? It’s all just creepy.
I don’t understand the need at this time of year to watch movies with gore and spectacular murders graphically displayed or journeys into hell-like landscapes – the blatant disregard for the dignity of humanity and the celebration of murderers and deviant sociopaths. Even worse, there are “Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7” of these terrible films. I think it desensitizes us to the reality of death and violence. The only movies I want to see a 7, 8, or 9 after are Star Wars episodes!
I am personally against children begging door to door for handouts they don’t earn by pretending to be someone else. And I hate those chalky candies in orange and black wrappers. And what is the deal with the teenagers who don Iron Maiden t-shirts and come up the walk with just tussled hair and an empty pillowcase? Come on, guys! That’s a costume? A little effort, please!
This week, I know many of my friends, neighbors and parishioners are looking forward to Tuesday, when our wee ones will become ladybugs, kitty cats, and tiny Captain Americas. They will rejoice in the sweet loot of Snickers, Jolly Ranchers, and Tootsie Rolls that they will bring home in their plastic pumpkins, and parents will carefully dole out that candy for the next two weeks (or sneak some of it themselves).
It is expected at this time of year, when the cool air freshens, the leaves change, and pumpkin spice is in everything.
But I hate it.
So, let me take this opportunity to remind you of what Halloween does call to mind for me: the reality of our own mortality and our call to be imitators of Someone Else. St. Paul knew this – long before Christians had heard of All Hallows’ Eve. He wrote to his friends in Thessalonica, “You became imitators of us and of the Lord … and became a model for all the believers.” The Christian, like those kids wandering our neighborhoods this Tuesday evening, is called to imitate Jesus – to “put on Christ,” as Paul says elsewhere. And this is more than just a simple costume that goes on and comes off after we score those Almond Joys and Mounds; rather, we are called to imitate Jesus to the point that we are transformed by Him.
This week, we will celebrate All Saints Day on Wednesday (you know, the “All Hallows” of All Hallows’ Eve? – day on which we honor all those who imitated Christ in their lives and now enjoy the fullness of life that He promises us all. On Thursday, we will celebrate All Souls Day, when we commemorate all those who have passed on from this world to the next and await that fullness of glory.
Halloween should begin to call to mind our duty to pray for those who have died, in order to assist them on their journey to Heaven. Purgatory is real, and we need to pray for the souls there. Ghosts don’t belong here in our world, and demons have a definite place in Hell. Our prayers are the best tool for those whom we love to reach the bliss of Heaven, and we do no one any favors by encouraging the depiction of the Devil and his little friends.
So, let’s have some good come out of our observance of Halloween. Let’s recall that you and I have an eternal destiny – with distinct possibilities, based on who we choose to follow and imitate. As you put on your Wonder Woman, Luke Skywalker, or SpiderMan costumes, remember that deep down you are called to imitate Jesus. And as gravestones and ghosts pop up around us, remember that we all have a place like that awaiting us – just as it did for Jesus. But He has risen victorious over the Devil and Death. And as imitators of Him, so have we.
So, if I have to say it, “Happy Halloween!”