Every year, Halloween gets scarier and scarier. I am not talking about the costumes but religious writers and activists who denounce the holiday as a pagan attack on God and faith. The creepies started early this year. Bloomberg columnist Amity Shlaes has written to denounce “the pull of the pagan” and ask people to think about how Halloween fills the vacuum left from the absence of faith.
First, I am a notorious Halloween fanatic. I have a blow up witch pumpkin on the roof and a blow up cat (with moving head and glowing eyes) coming out of the bushes. Skeletons hang from the trees, a cemetery graces the lawn, Frankenstein is reaching out from a bush near the door, webs cover the greenery, and floating ghosts hang above the door (and well as other finishing touches). If Halloween fills a void of faith, I am the black hole of faithless angst.
The premise of this column is that this is all something of a cry for help to fill such a void.
Halloween isn’t secular. It is pagan. There’s nothing else to call a set of ceremonies in which people utter magical phrases, flirt with the night and evoke the dead. . . .
There’s a reason for the pull of the pagan. In the U.S., we’ve been vigorously scrubbing our schools and other public spaces of traces of monotheistic religion for many decades now. Such scrubbing leaves a vacuum. The great self-deception of modern life is that nothing will be pulled into that vacuum.
While the well-written column cites sources like psychologist Carl Jung for the “modern myth,” there is another possibility: it is fun and you get to eat huge amounts of candy. There is that possibility that these children are not performing an annual ritual of the struggle mortality and the modern myth.
It is now a secular holiday regardless of any pagan origins. The column says:
Fans of the orange holiday may want to pause for a moment to look at the empty spaces between its rituals, as with the pumpkin’s smile. Some of us forego it to dedicate ourselves to one faith or another. But you don’t have to reject Halloween to ask what it may be replacing.
True, but what if I ask and find that it is replacing a year of dieting and boredom? Humans love to fantasize and this holiday allows kids to transform themselves into something unrecognizable. It allows them to scare or humor others. Such role playing is a healthy form of expression. It is not due to the angst of faithlessness and fears of mortality but the joy of invention and imagination.
Now, does anyone knew where I can get a ten foot spider with glowing eyes?
59 thoughts on “Amity-ville Horror: Is Halloween A Cry For Help?”
Woosty & Otteray,
This one’s for you:
John Hartford was one of the greats. Among other songs, he wrote “Gentle On My Mind,” which was a great hit for Glen Campbell.
He appeared on the “Smother’s Brothers Comedy Hour” a number of times.
I see you raised your children to be pagans. For shame!
Wonderful story and well told …
Great story, Ben. And thanks for including the photo. (She must be a smart girl — who among us even knew the word “slut” at age 5…, but then times have changed.)
“I just want to see kids coming to the door asking for candy and dressed funny and when you ask them what they are, they answer, ‘Bloggers’!”
When my kids were little, my secretary – about the age of my parents – asked me to drive them to her neighborhood for a treat.
My sons, about 7 and 9 respectively, wanted to be a vampire and a soldier. One wore a cape, white shirt, medallion, painted widow’s peak, and dyed hair. The other wore olive fatigues and a plastic helmet. Our daughter, about 5 had no preference. My wife dressed her in a kid’s motorcycle jacket someone had given her. She added tight jeans, leather boots, hair streaks, and a palette full of makeup and mascara. She told my daughter that she was a punk rocker. See:
We arrived at my secretary’s. She was the epitome of a sweet Sunday School teacher. As she looked at my children, she said, “Well, I can see your brothers are a soldier and a vampire, but what are you my dear?”
My daughter hesitated a moment and said, “I’m a slut!”
I just want to see kids coming to the door asking for candy and dressed funny and when you ask them what they are, they answer, “Bloggers!”
pardon me?1, October 21, 2011 at 5:39 pm
never heard John Hartford before, love his stuff!
I can’t see Halloween becoming any sort of dangerous symbol of any kind. With the dilution of holidays by both time and the media, it’s a wonder that the original intent of the holidays are even remembered by the masses.
As far as I can tell, any 5 year old is only concerned that there’s a cool Captain America costume available, and a large pillowcase for candy is stuffed to the brim.
Adults, equally, use the holiday to ‘let their hair down’ or dress like morons for entertainment. It’s quite hilarious, and generally without any particular intent to either worship Satan or promote/demote any particular religion.
It seems that this article is perfectly in line with the same people who would sue you over putting up a Christmas tree in a public area because it isn’t religiously-sensitive or some other such nonsense. If I want to celebrate the Chinese new year and put up decorations, who cares? Similarly, if I want to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve, and not just for the candy, again…. who cares?
Religious observance is religious observance, but I say that Halloween is Halloween. Where are the candy companies in this debate? They should be outraged that anyone would denounce their personal holiday!
Barney Collier said,
Talking about something being shoved down our throat, it’s secular humanism. You can’t even say Merry Christmas without some idiot somewhere getting offended.
don’t know were you shop but i counted one year and i was told merry christmas twice as often as happy holidays.
also when i was a kid it wasn’t secular humanists or an atheist city government that didn’t allow dept. or grocery stores to open on sunday.
and they still don’t allow bars to open or other alcohol sales on sunday.
Who knew they served aardvark at Blackbeard’s wedding?
As time goes by, I’m less and less interested in Halloween, even for the candy. I kindof feel the same way about Christianity.
“Those who can – do, those who can’t – teach.”
I once heard it as:
“Those who can – do, those who can’t – teach, those who can’t teach – coach.”
Elaine, what about Blackbeard’s Wedding Anniversary and The Feast Of The Aardvark?
(Blackbeard’s Wedding Anniversary occurs a couple times a month.)
I read your posting. I like your name, but does your name mean you are into bondage? How about Jewish sex?
I think we can make everyone happy and just rename Halloween. I will make the suggestion that makes sense to me…..Milky Way Day!!
(make that, “hors d’œuvres in bed”
and, “Butter liver…”)
Once again, here is John Hartford’s “The Lowest Pair”.
Much further out than inevitable
Halloween is thy game
Sky King has come
And Wilma’s done
Uncertain as it is uneven
Give us today hors d’œuvre’s in bed
As we forgive those who have dressed up against us
And need us not enter inflation
But our liver, onions, & potatoes.
For wine is a shingle, and a mower, and a story for your father.
I object most strongly to the inclusion of Satan as an aspect of Halloween (or to give it its original Irish name, Samhain) — sorry, Satan is a Christian deity and has nothing to do with Paganism.
I could also object to the commercialization of what is, after all, a very holy day, but I don’t have to participate in that if I don’t want to. Maybe Shlaes and others could take the hint.
As for the “war on Christmas” — even the Japanese celebrate Christmas, and very few Japanese are Christian.
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