Ghosts. Ghouls. Goblins. Halloween. Is this ever colorful, bizarre and playful – and also highly commercial and profitable retail holiday – the most spiritual day? Has Halloween, the Jack O’ Lantern pumpkin day, become the ultimate religious day which crosses all denominations and even global geographic lines?
Has our highly homogeneous society – with its great mix of religions, belief systems, agnosticism and atheism come together to elevate one day where everyone desperately believes in something more than just our world? After all, religion at its core is about the belief of life after death. The rules and guidelines for living and the Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments all lead to one inescapable conclusion: We all die. Where do we end up in the end? Religion promises to give us the answer.
All Hallows Eve or All Saints Eve – whatever you wish to call it – the fact is that the now playful, celebratory day originated as a kind of serious memorial to the dead, especially the faithful in the Christian faith. It also has roots in a harvest feast – a kind of farewell to the warmer weather, all the better for growing crops, and then ushering in the winter, often harsh and unforgiving. This good-bye to growth and a secure sense of having food is a metaphor for life and living. Winter ushers in the cold and the darkness – it welcomes death. Halloween is the last chance for a burst of warmth and life and living.
With the explosion of the media full of thrilling horror movies and TV shows, and the ever increasing sophistication of make-up, masks, costumes and prosthetic devices, Halloween has now big business. Between the trick or treaters – mostly kids, or big kids – to the dedicated,creative adults who love to dress up for their bawdy parties, Halloween has eclipsed Christmas as the most decorated time of the year. Is it purely a blast of candy laden party fun? Is there anything deeper connected to the day?
For the uninitiated, the casual observer, this obsessive need to dress up in garish costumes – often as the ‘dead’, like vampires, zombies, or the spirit of the dead, a ghost, – seems as if the pursuit is all play – all fun and games. If you focus a bit deeper on such behavior, you may just find something more, perhaps a lot more. People – from energetic kids to still active senior citizens – like to become something from the other world – something from the life beyond our own. When you become something, you understand it more. When you become something, even in pretence, you aren’t as afraid of it any longer. With knowledge comes better understanding and even serenity.
Halloween may now be the most religious of all days for many of us. It neatly captures the true understanding of what religion seeks to do – to help people cope with the notion of passing on to the great beyond. For that alone, Halloween should be commended and given the great respect it has finally earned and richly deserves.It’s not about competing with organized religion for favor or attention. It’s mostly about the very human need to believe in something beyond what we now know is true.