Back in the Dark Ages, when I was a child growing up in inner London, there was no Halloween . The event was not celebrated or marked in any way at all. To the best of my recollection, it was not marked in any way elsewhere in the country either.
We knew about it of course but it was regarded as one of just a host of old-fashioned out-dated Church Festivals, something people used to mark in the old days when they were ignorant and frightened of shadows . Now we were in the modern post religious, scientific age, being scared of things that go bump in the night was a sign of stupidity.
So, what has changed I wonder? Where has all this tide of cheap black and orange tat and rash of overblown pumpkins come from? The USA. For many reasons, Halloween has always been big there and we re-imported it in the late 70s/80s when people saw a marketing opportunity.It was also a time of questioning our spiritual model, our place in an increasingly rational, science-based world which left little room for those who needed some form of comfort as they faced an uncertain future. Conventional religion had failed in the eyes of many and there was a huge rise of interest in the occult which of course, continues today.
The fact that the USA had always retained Halloween as a big thing in their yearly cycle says something about their obsession with religion. The constant references to God in the campaigning speeches of both current Presidential candidates never ceases to amaze me. The LAST entity a British potential Prime Minister would mention is God. But it’s required people-fodder in the USA. I’ve never seen so many well-kept, full churches with big congregations as I saw in Madison, WI when I was there a few years ago. It’s a scene repeated throughout most areas of the USA. As an outside observer it feels as if religion there is stuck in a 1950′s time-warp. America has yet to go through its post-religious experience.
So, does this matter? Should we encourage our children to knock on doors “Trick or Treating”? What’s the harm? Well none of course provided sensible safeguards are built in, children are safe and old people are not terrorised by gangs of older children. But I do question WHY we are doing it. I see very little explanation to children of what this is REALLY about ie the celebration of all things gruesome, terrifying and horrifying on the day before All Hallows. The Catholic Church takes a dim view of course:
‘Halloween pushes new generations towards a mentality of esoteric magic and it attacks sacred and spiritual values through a devious initiation to the art and images of the occult. At best, it gives a big helping hand to consumerism and materialism.’ (Read more here. )
There is no need to be a paid-up Catholic to have some sympathy with this. By trivialising the horrific, dressing up as creatures which for centuries have inspired fear and loathing, are we blunting our sensitivities? Or are we facing our unknown horrors by shaking a stick and shouting in the dark at them? My feeling is that for most, it’s the first option. We are, yet again, trivialising evil. Why is it acceptable to mimic a flesh-eating ghoul when there are currently criminals locked up for killing and eating victims, but it’s NOT acceptable to mimic a child sex-offender?
Older generations had good reason to be afraid of the dark and all the unknowns that lurked within it. Here on the farm, when the lights go out, I have much sympathy with that! But, we have moved on. The horrors are still there but they are no longer unknown. Science and an insatiable media have an explanation and detailed description of every shade of horror known to man.
I for one shall continue to ignore Halloween.