Sunday, October 30, 2011

Innocent Fun Or. . ? - Austin

Halloween -- not my favourite day of the year. In fact, when I read two biblical characters who prayed for the day of their birth to be blotted from the calendar,** I catch myself thinking if they had been born on October 31, it wouldn't have hurt my feelings if God had granted their request.
** Jeremiah 21:14-18 & Job 3:1-16

It's strange that the Christian name of Halloween (All Hallowed Eve) is still so evident, but Christian influences in the celebration are so hard to find. It's also strange that if you research traditions, you find much questionable "history" in Christian teaching about this day. I make no claims to expertise, but in-depth research of northern Britain for my novel, Muninn's Keep, took me into Celtic and Druid practices 1,100 years ago. At least twice each year, they believed the boundaries between the living and the dead became exceptionally thin. Spirits of the dead, and other, more sinister spirits, could walk among the living on those two nights. Driven by fear people dressed in costumes so the spirits would not recognize them. They danced around huge bonfires in a ritual to drive the spirits back into the underworld.

In Christianized Britain, great efforts were made to supplant the pagan beliefs and practices. All Saints Day was deliberately moved to November 1st. But practices with generations, perhaps centuries of traditions and deeply rooted fears did not die out so easily. Both "the Day of the Fool" and Halloween have endured, with more of the ancient Druid trappings than anything of Christianity.

My early experiences of Halloween centered around candy and the stories four older brothers told of pranks, though they were involved in few of them. Tipping toilets (the old out-door privys every farm house had back then) was almost a right of passage in our community. But we were one of the last homes to have one as I finally reached the age where I could take part.

Minor mischief was expected and chuckled at. But burned haystacks and strawstacks came at a price farmers did not chuckle over. I remember one Halloween when a heavy rain had washed out the road two miles from our home. Vandalism must have been bad the year before. Dad and other farmers had been deputized. Dad toured that night with a loaded shotgun on the seat beside him. When he found someone had gone behind the barricade close to the wash-out and driven back through it, leaving a death-trap on a dark road, he was a dangerous man, but dangerous in a way I'm proud of all these years later.

As a teenager, one of my classmates swerved to avoid straw-bales in the road. He rolled his car and killed himself -- a senseless death for somebody's "innocent fun." That same Halloween, three grain elevators burned when wind caught bits of burning straw from bales in the middle of the road.

I still craved the candy. I still hungered for the adventure of many of the pranks others bragged of. But Halloween took on a dark edge for me, an edge time has never blunted successfully.

Don't get me wrong. I get a chuckle when the neighbour's triplets come to the door. I delight in our grandchildren showing up in whatever guise. But overall it's a day with little to recommend it and much to suggest it could be better spent. Like your children and granchildren, mine don't need more candy. And I certainly don't need the leftovers in the house when we prepare for more than ever come.

Blot that day out. .? Maybe I won't go quite that far. I know people who celebrate their birthday on this day and I'm quite willing to share this world with them. I know people who chose this day for their wedding and I long for their marriage to work. But as so many innocent children seek chills and thrills and candy, my prayer for my grandchildren in particular and for children in general is that they remain truly innocent of some of the roots of this night they are celebrating -- and they they learn on an ever deepening level of the love of God, who is bigger than anything they have reason to fear.

1 comment:

Peter Black said...

I hear you Brian, and also share a similar aversion to Halloween, much for the same reasons. (Maybe aversion has been commuted to reticence, since I am somewhat obliged to smarten up my attitude a little for the neighbourhood kids and our grandkids.)
Yep, those pranks of old weren't really quite so innocent, considering they often represented fun at considerable expense to others, eh!

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