On Not Celebrating Halloween…

Not celebrating Halloween seems to be a good way to boycott the increasing secularization of modern society.  This is the first year my son at almost 16 months is old enough to somewhat participate in the “festivities” of Halloween…but we’ve decided to opt out.  I celebrated the “holiday” growing up (sometimes by going to Protestant church “harvest festivals”), but now being Orthodox Christian I just can’t wrap my head around why I would want to celebrate it.

I’m not going to go in to the history of Halloween as most already know it has ties to a pagan Celtic festival and the western celebration of All Saints Day.  Many arguments about whether or not to celebrate Halloween focus on the historical ties to paganism.  (Even this is enough to convince me, but the exact historical facts are somewhat debatable according to several sources I read.  Father Josiah’s sermon in 2011 stated the Celtic festival was originally in April.)   So, I would say, let’s just start with what Halloween is and has become TODAY and is it something I want myself and family exposed to in TODAY’s society?

Over the last few weeks while walking around my tiny neighborhood, I have to shield my sons eyes from not one, but THREE homes covered with scary skulls, graves, witches, and other scary imagery.  (And several others covered with simple ghosts, etc.) As his parent, it is my responsibility to protect his nous, not to mention my own nous, from these scary images.  The nous in Eastern Orthodox theology is the eye of the soul.  The Bible says in Phillippians 4:7-9: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” One reason we have icons is to focus our nous on beautiful and holy images.  Why would I want to go somewhere, whether trick-or-treating or to a party, with a heavy concentration of “scary” icons?  What is their purpose – since obviously not to lift my nous or my son’s nous to dwell on heavenly things?   To quote OrthodoxWiki: “It is from a healed and corrected nous and intelligence that man knows and experiences God.”   Matthew 6:22 says “The eye is the lamp of the body, so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.”  Given the definition of nous and Christ’s very words in Matthew 6, it would seem that the scary images associated with Halloween are a direct attack on our clear eye and connection with God.

Halloween in today’s society is generally a celebration of the scary, and sometimes grotesque, and sometimes provocative.  Since, many consider it a civic holiday, then logically we can look to the stores for the holiday’s definition, right?  And look to the culture? Candy galore, ghosts, witches, goblins, skulls, gravestones etc. are the civic holiday’s images.  October is a difficult month to “window shop” during the day because I have to maneuver my stroller around these aisles!

Is it bad to play “dress up” for fun on any day? No..I don’t think so.  But, if you truly are able to avoid the inappropriate imagery of Halloween, it doesn’t seem that you are really celebrating or endorsing Halloween, according to what it is culturally, you are just having a fun time that could be had on any other day in the fall season.

It is becoming increasingly difficult in today’s culture/world/society to be a Christian with traditional values.  At some point in their lives, children with traditional values are going to feel “left out.”  There will be movies, videos games, tv shows, music that they will not be able to watch or listen to, toys they can’t have, parties they won’t be able to go to etc., friends they won’t be able to have, and children that might not want to be friends with them.  Not celebrating Halloween is one of the first things we can do to prepare our son for the inevitable struggles that lie ahead in our culture as we struggle to lead holy, set apart, lives for Christ.  If we can handle saying no to Halloween party invitations when my son is one, it will be that much easier for both of us when we want to protect his nous when he is older from various imagery and influences.  I think Halloween is a good time to put down compromises, take courage, and take a stand against secular culture…it’s not going to get any easier…and it might even be a good conversation starter.

So, this is my personal explanation on why my family has decided not to celebrate the secular “Halloween.”  When my son is older, if not this year, we will certainly take him to a pumpkin patch, possibly a hayride, and celebrate the beauty of the fall season.  A pumpkin patch is definitely a great way to lead into a discussion about how in generations before us, people were directly dependent on their land for survival (and couldn’t go to a grocery store!).

I end this blog post with the lyrics to the song “Cleareyed” by Glen Phillips where he is reflecting on his childhood, wishing he had been more sheltered from the world.

(Sidenote: I do realize that there is a general onslaught of bad imagery on a daily basis (magazine covers, commercials, etc.) and that we have to live and breathe in society, but not celebrating Halloween and avoiding these scary images is something I can do to lessen the impact.)

“Cleareyed” by Glen Phillips

“Ever since I was a kid I’ve been
Clear eyed, clear eyed
I can’t forget but I forgive,
Did you notice? Are you all right?

On the edge of memory where shapes
Take form and call to me

Some things I wish I’d never seen
Had never been, but so it is, so it is
If all I know is what I see, then certainty
Is what you are to me
Clear eyed, clear eyed

Someone came and changed the words
Left me tongue tied, tongue tied
It’s not a sky without a cloud
There is no blue sky, blue sky

Beyond the past, beyond the fear
The simple act of being here

Some things I wish I’d never seen
Had never been, but so it is, so it is
If all I know is what I see
Then certainty is what you are to me
Clear eyed, clear eyed

Blind me with love, make me blind
Blind me with love, make me blind
‘Cause I’ve seen too much, too much of this life
I have seen too much, too much of this life
I have seen too much, too much of this life
I have seen too much, too much of this life
Now I only see you, only see you
Clear eyed, clear eyed
Clear eyed, clear eyed”

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