“Fairytales don’t tell children that dragons exist; children already know that dragons exist. Fairytales tell children that dragons can be killed.” ― G.K. Chesterton.
Tomorrow night is Halloween, and all week on Facebook I’ve seen the usual back-and-forth about whether celebrating Halloween is the Christian thing to do. Is it a pagan holiday or not? While the answer is “No, it’s not. It’s a Christian holiday, and a uniquely American one at that!” I am not here interested in writing an apologetic on the Catholic origins of Halloween. A number of much better blogging minds have already done so.
I’m more interested in the creepifying aspects of Halloween—its associations with witches and goblins and vampires and werewolves. If Halloween is rightfully a Catholic holiday, then these vile creatures must have no part of our celebrations, right?
While I fully endorse the practice of dressing up as Saints to go trick-or-treating (and wait with baited breath for the costume whiz who parades around as St. Bartholomew collecting candy in his flayed skin), the idea of the scarier aspects of Halloween are the very same as that of gargoyles on Gothic Cathedrals. It’s an inside joke, of sorts. A wink and a nod to the fact that in the Resurrection, Jesus conquered death and led captivity captive, making a spectacle of those disarmed principalities and powers (cf. Eph 4:8, Col 2:15). Like the dragons in the fairy tales, Halloween’s monsters are symbols of all the scary things in our mad world writ large. The masks remind us that behind our terrible fears is nothing to fear. How often do we build up daunting scenarios in our minds that seem insurmountable, only to finally bite the bullet and find, well, that wasn’t so hard after all?
I personally am a very fearful and anxious person by temperament. Truth to tell, I’m scared to call a pizza place and order delivery! Halloween reminds me that I need to man up and face my daily fears if I’m going to reap the rewards, and that the best way to do that is with the faith of a child in a costume, walking up to the creepy-looking house to get some candy, because my Daddy is waiting and watching at the curb.
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