This editorial by Andrew M. Britz, OSB, titled Halloween, is from the Oct. 29, 1997, Prairie Messenger. It is included in a new collection of editorials by Britz: Rule of Faith: As we worship, so we believe, so we live, available from St. Peter’s Press, Muenster, Sask.
Religious purists, with the barest of historical study, find some pagan
elements in our Halloween celebrations and forthwith declare the whole
enterprise a corruption of Christianity. One glance at the sheer joy
and excitement in the eyes of child after child should make these self-proclaimed
guardians of orthodoxy reflect again on their conclusions.
Children quite naturally see that getting a bag full of
candy is something wonderful. But that alone would never explain that
Halloween sparkle brightening children’s eyes. Halloween is about
something much more important.
In all the fun and excitement of donning their masks “to frighten” their
neighbours, children unconsciously grasp some important wisdom which
is likely difficult to learn any other way.
They sense the power that comes to those able to step out
of the daily confines of their existence and view life from a new perspective.
Draw a few whiskers on a child’s face and behold — the normally
shy and timid little one is ready to go out and challenge the world!
With their newfound courage children are ready to allow
Halloween to spoof all the established structures of their lives. One
is never too young to learn that every structure — even the most sacred ones
of our religious belief — can, in given instances, be destructive
of the human spirit.
But it’s not just any mask the children don. They don’t become
a Princess Di or a Mother Teresa. For Halloween to really do its job,
it’s important that the children become goblins and witches and
Frankensteins. Pagan images of fear and evil are drawn upon, not because
they are believed in, but to be spoofed. The last thing Halloween does
is lead children to take more seriously the fears they unwittingly harbour
in the deepest levels of their being.
The children don masks — and come alive, gloriously
alive in a celebration of fun and freedom. It is an experience of the
human spirit absolutely critical to growth, to becoming a person. Celebration
always takes us deeper into life than sober, intellectual reflection.
(It is not surprising that persona is the Greek word for mask!)
A wise society — and a wise church — allows
its structures to be relativized in play. Then, and only then, is there
a chance that when the children become mature adults they will not view
these very structures as inhuman constrictions to growth, but rather
will cherish them for the time-tested wisdom they contain.
Central to Halloween is turning our key structure of order upside down. For a day children rule; in jest they frighten their elders into submission. No wonder the child in each of us still cherishes Halloween!