Don’t get me wrong; I like Halloween. Ater all, it’s my birthday and I have many fond memories of childhood costume birthday parties and trick-or-treating. But that’s just the point: it’s supposed to be a children’s holiday. What it’s become now is anyone’s guess.
For one thing, it’s become a multi-billion dollar business. People spend more on Halloween than any other “holiday” except Christmas. And we’re buying all those expensive presents at Christmas! Who’s spending all that money. Sure, some of it is spent on candy for trick-or-treaters and costumes for little ones, but most of it is being spent by that coveted demographic, 20-to-30 years olds and they’re not spending it on kids. They’re buying stuff for themselves, elaborate and ghoulish yard decorations that surpass any light display they put up for Christmas and silly costumes that they wear to work or to parties, extending their adolescence a little longer. I’m not opposed to costume parties, but there’s a question of appropriateness. Dress up for a party after work; I don’t want my employees looking ridiculous and unprofessional as they serve my customers.
And yes, I put scare quotes around holiday earlier because what is it we’re celebrating on Halloween? Once upon a time, we were celebrating All Hallow’s Eve, or the Vigil of All Saints’ Day, and coinciding with autumn and the fall harvest and so on naturally impelled some thought toward death. But now it’s become less about the peaceful decline of autumn toward winter, and more about blood and gore and violence and the occult. It’s a holiday adrift from its meaning so we’ve supplied it with figures hanging from trees in front yards and demons peeking out of bushes. Let me give you a hint: Anything that causes a three-year-old to cry or have nightmares is not “all in fun” for Halloween.
Really, I’m not a stick in the mud. I live in Salem, Mass., Halloween capital of the world, or so they say. I like watching the kids dress up and seeing the Charlie Brown Halloween special on TV and making Jack-o-lanterns and eating candy corn. But a darker, bacchanalian side of Halloween has emerged in recent years, at least since I was a kid. If you want the paradigm, come to Salem on Halloween. Or rather don’t because 70,000 other people will be here that night, running drunkenly down the street, throwing up in our garbage cans, peeing in the bushes, and causing mayhem because “pranks” are also part of Halloween. A few years ago we had an all-night Eucharistic adoration on Halloween as a way to celebrate All Saints Day and to do reparations for the excesses of the crowds outside.
I took some notes that night around 2 am, as the street orgy reached its fever pitch. From outside we heard intense screams and sirens. People snuck into the bushes around the church to relieve themselves on God’s house while others used the shadows for other purposes. Meanwhile the Wiccans gathered for their occultic rituals in the woods around town and Black Masses were performed, desecrating the Eucharist. And we sat inside in peace in the presence of the Lord.
What is like to sit in this church adoring the Sacrament as Halloween goes on around us? It is like being on Noah’s Ark as the doomed celebrate as usual, unaware of their fate. It is like sitting in Lot’s house, with the messengers of the Lord, as the people of Sodom scream for them to come out. I sit in the presence of the Lord, hearing the shouts, screams, and maniacal laughter; the roar of motorcycles and cry of sirens; while peace and serenity surround me in this sanctuary.
Here I sit and pray in reparation for evil done this night against The Sacrament, against the children of God. I pray for my intentions: for forgiveness of my sins, for a holy wife, for my family and friends.
Lord, this night may I stay by your side in prayer as you as asked the apostles to stay with you in the garden.
Halloween in Salem may be the excessive example, just as Mardi Gras in New Orleans is the excessive example for that day. Yet, I can’t help but wonder what this holiday for kids to play dress up has become. Maybe it was that way all along and it’s only become more apparent to me. Or maybe evil is just bolder now.