I have a theory that in the US, culturally speaking, Halloween is more Christian than Christmas…
Secular Christmas in the US is all about the naughty/nice thing. It’s self-absorbed and turned inward (aka ‘sinful’). Kids lie to themselves and others to get on that ‘nice’ list.
On Halloween, we don’t do a morality check at the door. We don’t stoop to little Timmy and ask in our smug grown-up voices, “Sooooo… Have you been a good little boy?”
Gag me with a Blow Pop…
Halloween brings out the best in us. It models what a Christian community should look like. We’re turned outward in joy towards our neighbors. Homes are decorated in a spirit of mischievous conviviality. Excitement fills the air. The least of these, the children, are the focal point of the night. And not just yours or mine… All children!
Christmas is based on exclusive gift giving. On Halloween, gifts are given freely and joyously from stranger to stranger with no prompting other than the obligatory, “Trick or treat!”
On Halloween, we mock death by dressing up as the undead. As my dear friend, theologian Joel Cruz quipped, “In the light of Christ’s resurrection, mocking death is a natural and holy response.” It’s a beautiful thing those little zombies and demons running around.
During Christmas, we invite our personal favorite people into the confines of our home. But on Halloween, we’re out on front porches, stoops, and yards. Property lines are dissolved and everyone is welcome everywhere (well, there are always those few who turn their lights off on Halloween, but they have their own stuff going on).
Segregated lines of race and class are shattered on Halloween. There’s compelling social science showing a big correlation between a community’s health and the extent to which it celebrates Halloween (see the book, ‘The Neighborhood Project’). When else do we see this kind of an intergenerational gathering of such joy?
What better way to honor the dead, celebrate the saints, and walk towards the darkest time of the year? What other holiday embodies with joy the ethos of “loving our neighbors as ourselves” which Jesus calls to us every day?
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