Monday, October 29, 2007

Halloween

I intended a lengthy post on the subject of Halloween, but I seem to have acquired tendinitis or carpal tunnel or somesuch. I'm seeing a doctor soon, but in the meanwhile, I have to cut down the typing, so you're getting my rough draft. It doesn't make the arguments I wanted to make, and it's more tongue-in-cheek and pointless than the final would have been, but it will give you some links to peruse and maybe some chuckles.

The Catholic blogosphere is buzzing with the holiday this year. WardWideWeb has an interesting article on what Halloween means and how Catholics can celebrate it. Catholic Update has an article on "How Halloween Can Be Redeemed." The B-Movie Catechism, meanwhile, has costume recommendations. And for the dissenting view, you have the entire Archdiocese of Mexico, which based on this single article appears to object more to Halloween's American roots than its pagan ones.

The Sci Fi Catholic, as you might expect, takes a line similar to that of WardWideWeb and Catholic Update, only more radical. We believe Halloween is not in need of redemption any more than, say, Christmas is in need of redemption, because Halloween is a Christian holiday. The culture may need a redeeming of the way it celebrates the holiday, but the holiday itself is fine. The fact that All Saint's Day (and thus, All Saint's Eve or Halloween) was planted where it is to usurp a pagan holiday is not the scandal some would have it to be. Days are not eternally cursed because pagans have used them, and the reason so many of our holidays stand where pagan holidays once stood is simply because we won and they lost, the sad-sacks who want to resurrect paganism notwithstanding. Christianity inherited the pagan world; naturally, we took what we liked from it. That is why I have so little patience, much less than I should have, with Christians who get nervous at every quirky holiday ritual that has some pagan descent.

It is interesting that Catholic Update and WardWideWeb approach the subject from such different angles. Catholic Update suggests the practice of dressing up can be used to honor saints or to remind us of our mortality with images of martyrdom and death. WardWideWeb, in contrast, suggests it can be used to mock devils.

While Catholic Update is talking about using Halloween to honor saints and WardWideWeb is talking about using Halloween to make fun of devils, The Sci Fi Catholic is wondering why nobody is talking about fairies. I think we're neglecting something important here, and the fay folk are not the sort of people you want to tick off. As Eddie Lenihan will tell you in Meeting the Other Crowd, these are the sort of creatures who might skin you alive for messing with their domains. So, I recommend dressing your kids as fairies for Halloween; after all, as Archbishop Richard Corbett points out in the poem "The Fairies' Farewell," which Fuinseoig once printed in its entirety in a comment, the fairies all sing "'Ave Maria." Of course, in the short story "The Corpse," Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy, indicates to the contrary that you can threaten fairies with "'Ave Maria," and it's well known they don't like church bells, but that's probably just because they're descendants of Cain, as explained in Beowulf. At any rate, whether the fairies sing "'Ave Maria" or run from it, they can't ignore it, and that proves they're Catholic, just as crucifix-shunning vampires are Catholic.

Some Christian writers have suggested it's okay to dress children up for Halloween as long as we don't dress them as something macabre. This sometimes puts kids at odds with parents, but I believe a compromise can be reached. If your children want to dress as something gruesome and you want them to dress as something Christian, trying making them gargoyle costumes. We have plenty of horrifying and sinister gargoyle designs available. In particular, I recommend the image of a defecating man that appears on the exterior of Freiburg im Breisgau Cathedral. Or if you want to design a costume that will give every parent on your block nightmares, trying hunting up some tomb artwork from the time of the Black Death (where do we get this silly idea that Christian stuff is never grisly?). And while you're at it, reflect on the fact that Richard Matheson in the novel I Am Legend speculates that the Black Death was not Bubonic Plague but a plague of vampires, and then reflect on the fact that a film version of I Am Legend is coming out soon, starring Will Smith.
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