A crash of symbols: Is Halloween evil? Is a watermelon?

Find the evil kidsSnug Harbor gathers itself in anticipation of Halloween number two at our new home out in the sticks. Black and orange pumpkin flags flap in the breeze from their poles on the Spook1 Weather Station, bright vanguards of the coming dark circus. At night passersby may notice that our front windows glow a great deal more orange lately, and the sounds of construction whirring and pounding out of Spooky Blue’s shop last long into the night.

However, in the midst of this bustling activity flits a mosquito. Its whine is persistent, and it sounds like “pagan holiday”, “witchcraft”, and “dark side“. Some folks are so frightened of Halloween and its symbols that they simply can’t tolerate them, instead gathering together in church basements to wait out the devil, relieved when it’s finally over with and they can go home and clear a spot for the Christmas tree.

Other folks take some personal responsibility to remind revelers that what we’re doing is fundamentally wrong. Sometimes it’s a friendly note in the mailbox from a neighbor, or possibly a concerned uncle drops by to talk about Leviticus 19:31. Still others might take things a step further and resort to good old-fashioned vandalism.

While vandals and Halloween have entertwining and often entertaining histories that are worth exploring, let’s save it for another time. Are the fears of the Leviticussers justified? Is Halloween evil? I submit that if one’s intent is not evil, then his actions cannot be evil.

Our version of Halloween has been renamed and repackaged many times over the long centuries. Scary sounding people and gods and religions were involved: Druids, Pagans, Samhain. All this Druiding and Paganizing made a lot of Christians angry, not least of whom was the Pope, who endeavored to put a stop to it, and not by means of a friendly letter in the post. Over time and under oppression, their misbehavior settled into a quiet passive-aggressive kind of sedition that remains to this day, though most people don’t know why they’re being seditious and would likely argue the fact, which brings me back to one of my two points. If one’s intent is not evil, then his actions cannot be evil.

Is Halloween steeped with pagan rituals? Sure, why not. Tons of new pagan children are doubtless drafted every October by dressing up as Spiderman or Optimus Prime and going out trick-or-treating. Is Halloween filled with symbolism that glorifies witchcraft, necromancy, casting – um lots, er… frisbeetarianism, and Druiding? Now we get to the meat of this discussion. Certainly we recognize symbols like the witch, a ghost, a bat, and a pumpkin as belonging to Halloween. But what do these represent?

That is the real point. To me they represent … Halloween! Not the other way around. The profile of the witch cut from construction paper and hung in the window is dear to me. It takes me back to fun afternoons that my mother and I spent together making witches and ghosts and pumpkins and bats to hang all over the house with bits of masking tape. A cardboard cutout skeleton on a front door reminds me of a cold rainy morning walking through the doors of S. Ellen Jones Elementary School and gazing up at the big bulletin board by the front office covered with crayon-colored leaves and guarded by that same tall, grinning, cardboard skeleton.

A construction paper witch hanging in my window isn’t a license to promote, advocate, ballyhoo, implement, transact, or otherwise do witchery of any sort. It is a symbol of Halloween and represents something entirely different to me. See what I just did? The witch, like the bat, black cat, skeleton, and Jackolantern are all symbols, objects that as a whole represent the abstraction of Halloween. My Halloween isn’t necessarily someone else’s Halloween. That’s what an abstraction means, and there’s where the trouble starts.

Round about and back again to the original question: Is Halloween evil? The simple answer is: No more so than we make it. In other words, a watermelon isn’t evil because a miscreant spits seeds all over the front porch. Halloween is wrapping yourself up in an autumn quilt and sharing the warmth with your friends and family. If folks can’t understand why all this sharing has to be carried out with the help of paper mache zombies and pumpkins, then I have to wonder if they ever had any fun as kids, or if something ate up all their sense of humor later in life. In any case, if Halloween means something different to them than to me, then that’s their business.

Here’s a final question with meat on its bones. Does Halloween glorify God? You tell me. Share, warmth, family, friendship. Those words all sound a lot like “Love”.

Happy Halloween!

— S. Blue will be on vacation the week of Sep. 24.
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One Response to “A crash of symbols: Is Halloween evil? Is a watermelon?”

  1. Hear, hear!!! I’ll second that notion!