What is Halloween?
Is it All Hallows Eve, an ancient pagan holiday that transitioned into Christian practice in the Middle Ages?
Is it a simple celebration of costumes and children parading from door to door – often with parents in tow?
Is it a great genre for horror movies that we all love to be frightened of?
Is it another way for retailers to sell us more stuff?
Is it an evening when stupid people to do nasty things thinking they’ll get away with it?
Or, is it a great excuse for singles to dress up in their sexy best and go partying – because it’s just fun to party? And, who needs an excuse?
Halloween As Theater: In my mind, Halloween is scary, cerebral theater; it’s really a philosophical event. It’s an idea acted out on stage in every town and village in our nation. Halloween is frightening fun; and who doesn’t love a great Jack-O-Lantern?
Thanksgiving is a holiday of hope and gratitude. It is happy, warm hope.
Halloween, on the other hand, is also about hope – but with a terrifying edge.
Let me explain.
The Only Constant In Nature Is Change: It’s time for Halloween; summer is over, fall is triumphant and winter is coming. We enjoy cooler days, azure blue skies and brisk breezes. We take out our jackets, rake our lawns and prepare for what’s coming.
Nature cycles through and through. Summer to Fall to Winter to Spring – and then more again. We human beings are tiny in the grand scale of nature and her cycles. Yet, we are immortal in a weird way. We have consciousness of what we are going through.
Change is everywhere in our lives. We make relationships and break relationships. We deal with job problems and we deal with parenting problems. Even good relationships are good because both partners change in a way that works for them. Life is not static – nor permanent.
You may hate change; but you are part of it, whether you like it or not.
Halloween celebrates our humanity though we fear change – and know that death is never far away.
The Proximity Of Death: In the midst of this change of seasons comes that peculiar celebration called Halloween, an event that mocks the Grim Reaper and Father Time. And who does this mocking? It’s our children who laugh at the scariness of long shadows, gruesome faces and dark moonlit nights.
Someone knocks on your door. Is it death? Are you going to be carried away like some victim in a Halloween movie; or like any random person that may die at any time?
You open your door and it is a scary masked creature. You may think you’re in trouble; and then with glee a child cries out “Trick or treat!” And thanks to generations of children the answer is always treat. On October 31st no tricks by any darker forces are allowed.
Rising Above Nature: Halloween allows us to rise above nature, with its cycle of life and death and, for a night, laugh in its face.
There is transience to everything important in nature, including our lives. The lives of people, the lives of generations, the lives of nations and the lives of all the memories that have been thought – all come and go. To paraphrase Ecclesiastes: “There is a time for life, a time for death, a time for sowing and a time for reaping.”
And of course, a time for life, which will return come Springtime, yet again.
On Halloween night our kids do not care about philosophy. They become the Grim Reaper. They become Father Time. They become bigger than the frailty that we adults, experience. To watch children walk about with defiant pleasure, enjoying the life of a goblin or a ghost, a long shadow, or a scary face is a beautiful sight to see.
The Power Of Children: We adults feel triumphant in our vicarious joy. Kids lead the way; and we follow. They are the future; and they tell us not to be afraid. So, we celebrate. Darkness becomes opportunity – fear becomes fun – a stranger’s door for one night (and under parental supervision) becomes defiantly safe.
Just hand over the candy!
Halloween is an excuse to party; but who really cares about one more night out on the town? Halloween is an excuse for some idiots to break mailboxes, throw eggs and vandalize some more. This is unimpressive. And, Halloween does have its roots in a pagan world. That’s interesting, but irrelevant to most people. I don’t see many people running to join ancient cults after celebrating Halloween.
No, Halloween is special. It’s dark and light; scary and liberating. And, on one night, we are immortal.
A Human Sense Of Eternity: Indeed, we are very small, much like our children. We are vulnerable, much like our children. And, we only know so much, just like our children. But, despite our frailty and the cycle of nature, we are still allowed a modest victory in the end. It’s that our seed, our ideas, our passion, our vision and our love gets carried on by generations going forward. This is our immortality. This is our mocking. This is our answer to the cycle of life and death; Winter, Summer, Spring and Fall.
If you love the energy of children, whether they are yours or they are nieces and nephews, you are part of the mystery of Halloween. Go out and enjoy.
And let there be treats for everyone.
You can hear Dr. Banschick on The Intelligent Divorce radio show as well.