To some it’s an unbelievably daft idea indoctrinating children on dressing up in costumes to roam around on a cold evening getting junk food from mostly total strangers. I mean, who on earth came up with this nonsense?
But that’s the eye-opener, because the ones who “came up with this nonsense” didn’t think it was nonsense at all. It was deadly serious. Two thousand years ago the Celts thought the evening of October 31 was the one time in the year when the divide between the physical and spiritual worlds, and between the living and the dead, could be crossed. And that was scary, because they really thought the dead could appear among them as ill-intentioned ghosts. So the Celts wore masks when leaving home after dark to avoid being recognized by the ghosts – and they put out food for the ghosts too, to appease them.
Weird though that sounds, it took root in England and Ireland where putting out food to appease the spirits on October 31 continued. But then some bright sparks got the sneaky idea of dressing up in creepy costumes to get people to give the goodies to them instead. It was called “mumming” back then. “Trick or treating” today.
Enough history is known, then, that the customs of our modern Halloween mimic quite shamelessly the pagan oddities of the past. Criticism by Christians is hardly valid, though, since the Christian church also took pagan customs and made them into Christian traditions that still exist today as well.
So a lot of people through the last 2,000 years have made Halloween, in all its evolving forms, names and traditions, into a special time – first as a pagan festival, then a Christian one, and now as a bit of “harmless fun.”
But it wasn’t a bit of harmless fun to the Celts who started it, and maybe it isn’t now either, because I just finished reading an article about the need to ease young children into Halloween because it can be, quote, “scary,” so “be on the lookout for fears and anxieties.” Oh, brilliant, let’s scare the children. I sometimes wonder if we parents have vital bits missing in our brains.
But that’s not to bash us parents too much, because those pesky Celts really caught people’s imagination about spirits with evil intent. And history, both secular and biblical, is on their side too – that evil and evil spirits are real. Could it mean, then, that those Celts got it right, that there really are evil spirits that can enter our world?
In that case, Halloween isn’t so much nonsense after all – if it takes us back to what those Celts did, which was treat evil seriously and take determined steps to protect themselves from it.