For the first Halloween in probably ten years, I decided to do something other than just open the door and drop a few pieces of candy in the bags of the kids on the other side. I’m just not a big holiday celebrator (if that’s even a word) and, once my kids were past the age when we had to accompany them trick-or-treating, we just resorted to grabbing a bag or two of candy to hand out and, once that was gone, turning off the porch light and retreating to the basement for a family movie night. But this year we adopted a dog. And our dog is super chill.
A few years ago a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend on social media shared this pet costume idea with Great Danes dressed up as spiders using pool noodles that I thought was super cute and, even though our dog is not a Great Dane, I wanted to do this with her. At 8 years old, she’s considered a senior dog so I didn’t want to waste a Halloween saying we’d do it next year because one never knows with dogs that age. So, I snagged a pathetic pre-made pet spider costume and four clearance pool noodles at WalMart, took our 20-year-old insanely large container of cable ties and some industrial strength glue, and got to work. This then led to me having to figure out a costume for myself since I can’t be walking a giant spider around the ‘hood in street clothes on Halloween. Thankfully my parents had brought me the “last” of my childhood stuff from their house a couple years ago (there’ll be a post about this in a few weeks) and it happened to include my 30-year-old prom dress that could pass as a getup for Little Miss Muffet. My husband said I had to have blonde curly hair to be Little Miss Muffet so off to Target I went. Of course, spiders need webs so I had to get a 10-foot spider web while I was there. Then with COVID-19 everyone has been going around and around about how to hand out candy safely. That left me on the eve of Halloween trying to figure out how to hang said web sturdy enough so I could clothespin snack-size baggies of candy to it for kids to take so we can maintain social distancing. Like many of my projects, this has snowballed.
And while gluing and cable-tying and bagging candy, I got to thinking. (This right here should scare you a bit because you never know what’s coming when I get to thinking. See Why No One Asks Me What I’m Thinking if you need to verify that.)
I found myself wondering if pagans feel like everyone has ruined the true meaning of their big holiday, like Christians complain that secularism and materialism have ruined the true meaning of Christmas. Let me explain.
I’m a Christian. Christians are kind of all over the map about Halloween. Those who are more liberal throw Halloween parties and go trick-or-treating with everyone else and don’t pay any mind. Believers who lean very conservative are convinced Halloween is the devil’s holiday and to even hand out candy is a sin and wag their fingers at the liberal believers who participate. Though these same conservatives will throw “harvest festivals” on or near Halloween and you’ll see in a minute why this is somewhat ironic. I personally don’t have a moral opposition to Halloween, and here is why.
Halloween is not Satan’s holiday. Many historical cultures had some form of Halloween that celebrated the fall harvest and the pagan gods of their culture that were thought to be responsible for that harvest or as festivals that honored the dead—this would be that irony with Christian harvest festivals I was mentioning above. Halloween as it is known in America largely originated from the United Kingdom tradition of the Celtic harvest festival of Samhain (meaning “summer’s end”) that marked the beginning of winter—a season of cold, darkness, and death—and honored Saman, the lord of death. This was eventually combined with two Roman festivals honoring other pagan gods when the Romans invaded the U.K. in the first century A.D. So in reality, it is the holiday of pagan gods, not Satan (there is a difference). To be certain, Christians shouldn’t be honoring pagan gods even if they are not Satan but what Halloween has become in the modern-day, mainstream way most people celebrate it isn’t even remotely honoring the pagan gods of harvest or the dead. It is kids dressing up in costumes to extort candy from their neighbors. Much like Christmas has become so secularized in its modern form it has little, if anything, to do with celebrating the birth of the world’s Savior. So, if anything, me and my dog dressing up to handout Halloween candy has helped contribute to the cheapening of the true meaning of Halloween by not actually celebrating the pagan gods of the harvest and/or of the dead.
Not that Satan isn’t found lurking about on Halloween but he’s lurking about every day. And honestly, it is his lurking about on the rest of the days that is most dangerous. On Halloween everyone is looking for him but he’s really all about flying under the radar. Yes, some people will willingly sign up to follow him, but what he’s really interested in is getting those of us who know his days are numbered to become ineffective at fighting his schemes. He knows we’re not going to willingly do that so his major tactic is to lull us into living our day-to-day lives in self-serving ways as if there is no God besides when we’re sitting in the pew on Sunday morning. He doesn’t really care if we’re on high alert for him one night a year (Halloween) if he can get us to be complacent the other 364. And this is why Halloween doesn’t scare me. I take it for what it is in its modern sense—kids enjoying getting dressed up and asking for candy.