I’m not a big fan of Hallowe’en.
Perhaps it goes back to being a parent of kids with food allergies and being what we called then “a health food nut” (before it became trendy).
Perhaps there is some latent childhood guilt about the way my brother and I planned our routes like those clocked shopping spree wins in the supermarket. (They don’t have those anymore, do they?) Two totally full pillowcases each was our usual haul. (Hey, we were good.)
Our costumes then were always homemade, often out of stretchy crepe paper, and had to fit over a parka. Decorations were something, often unidentifiable, made out of construction paper at school and taped to the window. Our loot bags, often drool-stained, were the pillow cases Mom had already rejected for regular use. No adults accompanied us; they would only slow us down.
Our parents didn’t freak out about Hallowe’en. Mom commandeered the apples in our bags for pies, so she was okay with it. They steered us away from the parts of the occasion that mentioned evil or the occult, but by the time my kids wanted to go out things changed.
Then the night of mocking our fear gave way to fear. Fear of razor blades in apples, poison in popcorn balls, drugs in cookies… fear of pedophiles… drunk drivers… actual satan worshippers…
As I walked around the stores this week and saw the decorations around the neighbourhood, I realized much of what this All Holy People’s Evening (the meaning of the word Hallowe’en) has morphed into is actually an expression of things we fear – the opposite of all that is holy. In the way Medieval Carnivals were parodies of religious and cultural restraints, when for one day a year folks felt free to turn their society upside-down, I wonder if Hallowe’en has become the day to remove restraints on expressions of what folks fear?
The fear of death has always been with us, but I’ve noticed some changes in the past few years. Hallowe’en is getting darker. Fewer Dorothys and more wicked witches.
The obsession with zombies lately tells me people are afraid of going through the motions, but feeling dead inside – living, but not alive.
Perhaps this thing with vampires is a clue to a fear of having the life sucked out of one, and then feeling helpless to curb cravings left in its place. What if we also become both victims and perpetrators? What if we become someone who uses other people in a way that leaves them feeling so hopeless and needy that even death is not an escape?
I wonder if a bad guy costume (the pirate, the axe murderer, the monster, the seductress) is about fear of a person’s inability to control the darkness in their own hearts.
I wonder if ghosts and ghouls and witches and wizards are about a fear of the supernatural and the misuse of things we can’t explain or control?
I wonder if underlying all this is our deepest, darkest fear – the fear of disappointment in God, the fear that he is not there for us, the fear that we somehow have to get through the perils of darkness all on our own? (The lack of good father figures in popular children’s stories and films may be another clue to this common fear.)
Fear attracts more fear and more darkness, I’m sure of that. I understand people who want nothing to do with a celebrations of death and darkness and evil and choose to boycott the whole thing. I know some folks who shut the lights off and go down to the basement for the evening. As a person who has had to fight fear and anxiety much of my life I admit I ran scared of the fear of the taint of possible demonic ugliness myself for a while. I had seen too much to dismiss its existence.
But I am reminded that there is no such thing as a flashdark. Light dispels darkness, not the other way around. We can curse the darkness, or we can light a candle, and if the evil one tries to blow it out, we light another one, and another one and another one. Perhaps it’s time to redeem the time.
I read about a prayer request today. It was that time when Paul asked the people in Thessalonica (who were prone to listening to fearful tales that they had missed Jesus’ return) to pray for him and his friends, that they may be delivered from wicked and evil men. He held out a torch of light to them when he assured them God was faithful and was willing to strengthen and protect them from the evil one if they looked to Him and just asked.
“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance,” he said. Knowing the perfect love of God is the only antidote to fear and anxiety.
So this is the little light I try to let shine: Jesus loves you. This I know.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4,5)
On All Hallows Evening my house is the one with the candle in the window. It’s a symbol of hope. You are welcome to come to my door. It will be open. I will be waiting and praying for you.
On earth as it is in heaven. Deliver us from the evil one. For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory.