Do you have strong feelings about Halloween? Tomorrow’s annual holiday elicits strong feelings on both sides of the spectrum.
With its admittedly pagan origins, involving druids, ghosts and goblins, among other things, there are Christians who deliberately ignore even the seemingly innocent aspects of the day.
At the same time, there are many of us who choose to focus on the happier side. Many churches even hold “harvest” festivals and invite children to dress up in fun costumes.
But my friend and Focus colleague Paul Batura recently wrote about the escalating darkness surrounding the day, even sharing some interesting history on the origins of such things as haunted houses. You can read his entire piece on Fox News here but allow me to share a portion of it with you here:
The degree of guts and gore notwithstanding, scaring people for entertainment likely dates back to the beginning of recorded history. Riveting tales of suspense are legendary. But like anything else, it’s human nature to escalate, push the envelope, and take things to the extreme.
According to most historians, the origin of the haunted house can be traced back to 19th century England. In 1802, the French artist Marie Tussaud created a big stir in London when she sculpted and assembled a collection of “death masks” featuring the faces of guillotine victims. It was called the “Chamber of Horrors” – and at the time it generated an enormous cultural buzz.
Believe it or not, Walt Disney, long considered America’s icon of wholesome family fun, is credited with launching the modern-day haunted house craze. Opening in 1969, Disneyland’s “Haunted Mansion” became a huge it, proving once again that Hollywood shapes culture in more ways than one.
I have Christian friends who object to the holiday altogether, citing its pagan and creepy origins. I respect their convictions and have to admit that from a theological standpoint, I’m on shaky ground recognizing the yearly festival.
Nevertheless, I’ve always enjoyed the innocent side of the Halloween or harvest holiday, first as a kid, and now as a parent. When I hear the rustle and crunch of fallen leaves underfoot, I’m transported back to hours upon hours of trick-or-treating on Long Island streets. My costumes included Superman, Batman as well as baseball and football players.
It was always such great fun to carve pumpkins, bob for apples and roam the neighborhood in the crisp fall air with my brothers and sister, collecting the coveted candy and homemade treats our neighbors so generously dispensed.
I’m looking forward to taking our boys trick-or-treating again this Thursday evening, hopefully adding to their storehouse of happy memories.
But I assume the rise in the darker side of Halloween is attributable to a constellation of factors ranging from a rise in secular beliefs to the influence of media and the escalating nature of things. Psychologists will tell you that what was once titillating soon proves boring, leading producers to magnify horror productions to get the same thrill or chill.
To be sure, I know there are a lot of fine people who enjoy a good scare and who feel they can easily separate the fact from the fiction. But the human mind is a tender, fragile, highly sensitive – and mysterious creation. The fact of the matter is that we become what we think about – and I’ve just never understood why anybody would want to ponder the ghoulish, inane and profane. As a favorite pastor used to say, “Garbage in, garbage out. What goes down in the well comes up in the bucket.”
I’ve long appreciated the timeless wisdom of the Apostle Paul, who once advised his friends, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
If you ask me, that kind of advice is all treat and no trick
What are your thoughts on Halloween? I welcome your feedback in the comment section below.