Saturday, October 31, 2009

Healthy Terror

A couple of years ago someone at a PTA meeting, when I asked why they didn't celebrate Halloween at the school, breezily said she thought some Jewish parents had complained.

Yeah - right. I didn't even bother to correct her WAY off information. No Jew I have ever met has disparaged Halloween. We like it so much we have another one, called Purim, in the Spring :)

But In a continuing effort to get common sense brought back into decision making and viewpoints, let's think about why so many schools now don't celebrate it. And let's applaud the ones that do.

It's a secular holiday. So is July 4th. Some would like to associate Halloween with pagan worship traditions that go back thousands of years, and they would be right. But many others see it as a Christian holiday, All Hallows Eve. Of course the early Christians, specifically Romans conquering Europe, found it easier to Christian-ize existing holidays than to force the locals to take on new holidays. I love how practical the Romans were - win the fight, then win them over, don't fight battles that don't matter. Merging of traditions among tribes is probably something that happened from the beginning of human time.

Who gets to own the holiday now is my question. If we let the Pagans or Catholics take over, isn't this tyranny by the minority?? As much as I hear certain radicals railing against things like atheists pushing prayer out of schools (when in fact it was our Founding Fathers - pretty smart guys all in all), how can these same people run from Halloween calling it "unchristian" because a very small number of people actually see it as part of their religion??

The beauty of Halloween is you DON'T have to be Catholic, or Wiccan, or anything to celebrate it.

Not that we hear Pagans, Wiccans and Devil Worshipers (G-d help them) demonstrating on the street for equal rights. Pretty sure the lessons learned by burnings, drownings and torture over centuries has sunk in.

If people want to celebrate or "observe" (spooky word!) Halloween at church or with gatherings of friends, and Christian-ize it, have at it.

Has anyone noticed that we don't worry about worshiping the Sun God on Sunday, or the Moon G0d on Monday or , did you know, Mercury on Wednesday (see french, mercredi, or your latin) or Thor on Thursday... these were Roman Gods (actually I think Mercury is Greek and Hermes is Roman). But we don't throw out our Roman numerals, or our Gregorian (Catholic) calendar.

We don't need to dump on other religions just because it isn't our faith.

This is the problem with radicalism. And I'd like to compare it to knuckle-dragging mouth-breathing, in ever so polite a way. It comes from fear. "I'm right and by god you're wrong." Could be you are right, but it isn't up to anyone else but me to figure out right and wrong for me, within the context of my beliefs and values. In fact it's my job to figure out good and evil and what is neither or both. Not your job. It's like happiness, an inside job.

Halloween is both about personal choices and public property. A Frankenstein lightening rod!

Why let anyone take over something that is public property? I refuse, for instance, to yield the ever shrinking Middle Ground, where sane, common sense people should - are in fact *obligated* to - take a stand. To me this is an ethical question and based on "If you aren't part of the solution, then you are part of problem."

Halloween is also common, sacred ground. Not in the sense that it is sacred to Pagans, or Wiccans, or Catholics, but in the sense that it is part of the human condition to have deep dark fears.

Those horror stories, movies, plays (who is more terrifying than Shakespeare?) and costumes... Perfect. Glorious! Amazing!!!


Because on Halloween, not only do we get to be creative and playful, but WE GET TO MAKE FUN OF SCARY STUFF. What is better than a good fun scare to help us confront the darkest parts of the human condition? For me two things are scary: radicalism/arrogance mixed with power and "not knowing". What is in the dark, will it kill me? Am I smarter than it? Can I see it or name it??

Just as children who have never heard scary stories still dream about monsters, we all have our demons and dragons. As adults they are made real with recessions, job losses, divorce, death, illness, taxes, politicians, insurance companies and fat cat swindlers.

I love fairy tales, especially ones about the dragon or Scary Thing that is outwitted by a calm or powerful foe. This is how we teach our kids and reassure ourselves that terrible things can be overcome. Better if you are calm, and bonus points if you are funny. To be wise and therefore able to outwit the scariest thing you can imagine is to gain unlimited power. Just ask Yoda.

How sweet is that?! Love 2 for 1 deals!

Not only does Halloween provide days of childlike wonder, creativity, an excuse for candy and Fun! but it also gives us the chance to face our deepest fears, run screaming! learn from them (we survived!) and maybe, just maybe, even laugh at them.

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