Halloween? Fall Festival? Whatever, just point me to the party.

By Joy Carrico | Published Saturday, October 31, 2015

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People love parties. I think this is true across all time, all cultures and all religions.

When I look at the observance of Halloween, I see how much people are willing to bend things in order to keep the party going.

Joy Carrico

Joy Carrico

The defining characteristic of early Christians was their relentless pursuit to convert pagans to their beliefs (they’re still doing that, by the way. Although I don’t think they call them pagans anymore).

One of their most effective tactics to winning souls for Christ was to reinvent the pagan celebrations into “Christian holidays.” People didn’t want to change their entire belief system if it meant they didn’t get to keep feasting and romping at established times.

So, the harvest festival became a holy day when we prayed for souls and saints and stuff. This worked great. When they got to bring the party with them, they were much more willing to change their entire belief system. That, in my opinion, is some serious dedication to fun.

Today Halloween is when kids dress up in costumes, roam the streets collecting candy house-to-house (or increasingly trunk-to-trunk) and carve pumkins. As kids grow older and become adults, they keep the costumes and the pumpkins, but most stop blackmailing stangers for candy.

The emphasis as we grow older turns to honoring things that frighten us, especially supernatural things. We decorate with cobwebs, mummies, ghosts and witches. We watch horror movies. We walk through “haunted houses.” We seek to scare ourselves for fun.

During my lifetime, Halloween has been under attack. Some people think Halloween is fine as it is, but others think it glorifies non-Christian things that confuse and contradict their established doctrine.

I remember when fall festivals were a new thing. They were put on by conservative churches to offer an alternative to Halloween for those whose beliefs prohibited them from celebrating Halloween the way the liberals did.

Today fall festivals are commonplace and virtually synonymous with Halloween. Any original feeling of protest, of being “in the world but not of it,” is gone. They’re of the world now.

The irony that Halloween was created to allow the pagans to continue to observe their fall festival doesn’t seem to occur to the modern-day cousins who have altered the evil Halloween into a fall festival so that the Christians can continue to observe their holiday. That’s quite a twist of events back to the original that I find highly amusing.

I wonder, would everyone be better off if they just went back to the original pagan holiday? Probably not.

I’m guessing there’s at least one tradition in the original festival that no one would be willing to do in a church parking lot.

Halloween may be a sin – such a determiniation is above my pay grade – but to just ban the celebration and do nothing on that day is apparently not an option. People may be willing to change their entire belief system, but they are not willing to stop having the party. Converting Christians figured that out several millenia ago. An alternative must be provided or those that want to will get nowhere in swaying others to turn from their sinful ways.

God may forbid Halloween, but God forbid we stop partying!

In the end, it doesn’t seem to matter to humanity all that much whether Halloween is about pagan harvest festivals, praying for lost souls, playing tricks on people, compulsively stockpiling candy or Christian fall festivals (which I’m sure are very different from the pagan versions). As long as we get to let loose on Oct. 31, we’re good.

Joy Carrico is a graphic artist at the Messenger.

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