After years of opinionating from "Halloween is EVIL" to "Halloween is harmless", I think I've finally figured out the thing that bugs me about Halloween; it's not what it means, but rather what it doesn't mean...
As one of those independent, fundamental Midwestern Baptist types, I've grow up surrounded by a lot of preaching about the terrible, evil holiday of Halloween. Lacking first-hand knowledge of anyone in my circle of acquaintance who moved from dressing like Superman to worshiping Satan, I can't say that Halloween is a gateway holiday down the path of darkness.
"I've got a bad feeling about this..."*
(* : This phrase probably trademarked by George Lucas and his Star Wars franchise. All rights are his! Call off the lawyers...)
But there's been something about Halloween that has always annoyed me, some nit in my craw that kept me wondering every year, "Why does this holiday give me that 'something's wrong here' feeling?" Was it childhood trauma from embarrassing costumes? Nothing specific comes to mind, though I'm sure my parents may have a few stories to share.
Was it a natural aversion to "dressing up" like those weirdos at comic-book and science fiction conventions? Well, that sure isn't it. I mean, truth be told, if I had my druthers I'd be out trick-or-treating just to see the reaction to a pixel-perfect Halo Master Chief costume.
Halloween Is Different--and It's Not Just the Candy
It finally dawned on me that Halloween stands out in my mind for one simple reason, and I was stunned that I had not seen this before. It has nothing to do with religion or paganism, and it's certainly not about over-commercialization (I'll save my Christmas rant for later).
It's all about the attitude.
Halloween is the only holiday which casts selfishness, "making mischief" and "causing trouble for others" in a positive light. It's not that there's a deep hidden meaning to Halloween, but rather it has no meaning.
For every other widely-celebrated holiday or special event (with the possible exception of April Fool's day), to participate in the full aspect of the holiday, you are expected to:
- Give graciously to loved ones and those in need. (Christmas)
- Remember those who have provided for you. (Mother's/Fathers Day)
- Celebrate the sacrifices of those who fought for our freedoms. (Independence Day, Veteran's Day, Flag Day)
- Recall historical events which changed our nation's path. (President's Day, Patriot Day)
- Worship and remember religious events. (Easter, Palm Sunday, other "Holy-days")
- Provide a romantic escape to celebrate with your significant other. (Valentine's Day, Sweetest's Day, birthdays, anniversaries)
- Eat lots of turkey. Watch football with friends. Oh, and be thankful, too. (Thanksgiving)
- Oh, wait, then there's Labor Day...
What's Halloween about? Narcissism, if anything.
- Look cute.
- Get candy.
- Soap windows.
- Throw eggs.
- T.P. the coach's house.
- Scare the bejeepers out of everyone you can.
That's it. No be nice to others, no gather with family, no wave the flag.
- Juvenile irresponsible pranks? You get a free pass! Everyone's going to be up until midnight anyway.
- Attempt to make the little second-grade wimp down the street wet himself by pretending to attack him with a knife? Go for it.
- Portray a gory disembowlment with corn syrup and food coloring? Have at it.
- You're a homeowner with some minor property damage that night? Kids will be kids, don't worry about it.
Weird. Seems that Halloween is the only mean holiday; it's certainly the most pointless, philosophically speaking.
Sure, Christmas has its greed issues and hyper-commercialization; Easter used to be pagan, then Christian, and now it belongs to the Easter bunny and neo-pagans and tree huggers; and you could easily make the case that most of the warm fuzzy holidays are "Hallmark Holidays" created to sell cards, flowers, expensive meals, and chocolate... yum!
But the fact remains that Halloween has no celebratory "doing something for someone else", no redemptive tales (a la Scrooge), no patriotic slant, no major event in history with substantive social or religious meaning--nothing beneficial to the less fortunate, no kindness to special someones, no good news to share, and nothing except empty calories.
Don't get me wrong: dressing the kids in costumes is adorable, and we endeavor to give candy and such. ("Fun size candy bars? Fun for who?") And like I mentioned before, I've got some awesome costume ideas. But Halloween is the YouTube, the MySpace, the MTV Real Life, the disposable "ten minutes of reality TV show fame" holiday which does nothing to improve the world as we know it.
So What? And So What Are You Going To Do About It?
This is where I am today; I've identified what's lacking in this one holiday. But I don't know how to "fix" it, how to make Halloween something meaningful and "giving". I suppose all those strangers who appear at my door--and they're looking stranger every year ya know--could be construed as the needy looking for a handout, and I'm helping them by... um...
Aw, whatever. It's all about empty calories folks!
I don't want Halloween to disappear. First off, it's my father-in-law's birthday, and my pastor's birthday; and most importantly, something has to indicate summer's over and holiday shopping season should begin. But I guess this is what bothers me about Halloween: Halloween is the only holiday that celebrates not being kind at all.
Just something to ponder. Hopefully other holidays won't fall prey to being utterly meaningless.
And someday, I'm so gonna be Master Chief...