While I was away in Michigan Alana came home to find a business card in the door. The card was from a local pastor. He possibly thought we were in dire need of saving due to the Halloween decorations on the front yard of our apartment. (I'm not sure if I'm more scared/amused at the idea of a pastor stopping by our apartment because he happened to be in the neighbourhood and saw the decorations, or of a pastor who is campaigning door-to-door. I mean, it's not like there are that many "undecideds" around here...)
Halloween is a little different here in the bible belt than it is elsewhere in the country. Evangelical Christians have a hard time with Halloween. On the one hand it appears to celebrate paganism. On the other hand it's a part of American culture (at least secular culture), and the "celebration" of it is growing.
I'm in the cusp of Gen-X and the Boomers, when Halloween started to become very commercialized in our youth. This seems to have translated to a rise in popularity for adult Halloween parties. You can now find more adult costumes for Halloween than kid costumes.
This increase in popularity goes against the grain of Southern Christians. Halloween was, originally, pagan after all. They fail to note two things:
- All Hallow's Eve came before the day of All Hallowed Souls, but it was taken over by early Christians as the even of All Hallowed Saints day, so it's popularity is due to Christianity absorbing the fall festival into its religion.
- All Hallow's Eve is hardly the first holiday to be absorbed by Christians. It's pretty certain, for instance, that Christ was not born in December, and that early Christians set Christ's birthday mass on Saturnalia to absorb the popular pagan winter solstice festival.
In these parts Christians absorb Halloween and try to de-paganize it with "Fall festivals". These "festivals" look a lot like Halloween — kids dress up in costumes and receive candy — but overtly pagan costumes are frowned upon. As a result, there's not a whole lot of ghoulishness present. Kids play games and hang out almost exclusively at the church. It does make Halloween safer, and parents appreciate that.
The "Fall festival" idea has spread to schools. Local Christians have managed to eliminate the "Halloween party" from schools. Instead, schools have their own Fall festivals. Kids aren't allowed to wear costumes, but they do get to go from room to room playing games and getting candy. Ironically, the decorations used in Logan's school were most definitely Halloween-ish, with ghosts, bats and spiders well represented.
(Aside: there has never been a documentated case of tampered candy. Or, rather, there has never been a case where the person doing the tampering wasn't involved in the victim. That's right, no tampering has happened. It appears to be an urban legend. There are cases of tampered candy, but these are all by people who sought to harm a specific child. They assumed that there was so much tampering that they'd never be caught, only to have the police discover the truth pretty quickly.)
Not only do some Christians believe Halloween to be pagan, they believe it to be Satanic. This is quite misguided. Halloween corresponds with the Celtic holiday of Samhain, with November 1 marking the first day of the Celtic year. Celts believed that the ghosts of the dead could best mingle with the living on this day of the year, so they held a festival to honour the dead, to help them on their journey to the Celtic underworld, and to keep them away from the living. It was not a celebration of the Satanic or evil but a way of protecting the living.
For more information, see the Wikipedia entry on the history and folklore of Halloween.
It's now after 6 pm and it's still raining. It's dark and I turned on the orange lights draped over our decorations. Nobody has come to the door yet. I suspect we will have a fair bit of candy to eat by ourselves.
If it stops raining long enough, I'll take — and post — pictures of our apartment with the Halloween decorations up.