Wednesday, October 27, 2010

For the last time...

...trick-or-treating is not some deeply mysterious ancient Catholic mystic rite laden with drama and meaning by which we don costumes to mimic the shades of the Poor Souls in Purgatory as we ring doorbells and beg for prayers and blessings (and some free candy while we're at it).

It is a relatively modern American secular party-custom by which we dress our children up as Spider Man, Sponge Bob, Dora the Explorer, or a Random Disney Princess and send them out to get free candy from the neighbors.

If you do it--hey, enjoy it. Not everything in our lives has to be fraught with Catholic meaning and significance (especially if you have to strain the truth to a ludicrous degree to find that meaning).

If you decide to celebrate the Eve of All Hallows' Day with a party in honor of the saints, instead--hey, enjoy it. There's nothing wrong with adding a little Catholic meaning and significance to our secular parties and celebrations.

But if you start handing me leaflets authored by various Catholic Blogging Experts which argue that really, truly, letting your kid dress up in a Bob the Builder outfit and sending him to get a lot of candy-loot is really a deeply and historically significant Catholic act of the sort which all Catholics under pain of excommunication from the Right Sort of Catholics of the Blogosphere Association must participate in--you're going to get nothing but giggles from me. 'Cause, you know, trick-or-treat may be fun and all that, but it has as much to do with Catholicism as green beer does.

And that, hopefully, will be my last word on the subject.

20 comments:

Deirdre Mundy said...

Duh-- to be religiously significant and one with the bishops, you don't dress him up as Bob the Builder! You dress him up as Handy Man Manny and have him campaign for 'undocumented' rights!

LeeAnn Balbirona said...

I don't see in the article where Zmirak is asserting that dressing for Halloween has deep spiritual significance. Are you referring to a different article? The only place I've ever seen a reference to trick-or-treating being tied to remembering the poor souls in purgatory was actually a Waldorf (Rudolf Steiner) activity book. And it was one of those conjecture things...like "we think this is how it started, maybe."

Halloween to me is just an all- American tradition. My kids trick-or-treat in regular old secular costumes bought at Target. It's fun, they like dressing up, they like candy. I steer them away from the ghoulish and creepy stuff or the weird (teen boys dressed as girls is popular in our neighborhood) and gross (sexy anything) stuff. I like to keep things fun, not scary.

We've dressed up for All Saints a few times and that can be fun too...except, as you noted, that some who attend these things insist that this is the only right way of spending 10/31-11/1. When we've celebrated All Saints with costumes, we've always trick or treated as well in other secular costumes.

The main thing I want my kids to do for All Saints is attend Mass and honor the saints. This year we'll be remembering their father, my beloved husband, on All Souls' Day. Now that would be an interesting situation...my kids could aks for prayers for the repose of the soul of Daddy as they trick-or-treated...it could happen, but it would have nothing to do with dressing up or getting candy.

LeeAnn Balbirona said...

Deirdre, you are not funny and neither is your comment...in my opinion.

Red Cardigan said...

LeeAnn, I'm so sorry for your loss. I know from others that All Souls' Day and the prayers for the deceased can be both moving and difficult for those who have lost a loved one in the recent past--will remember your family in prayer this coming week.

Deirdre, I find your comment rather troubling. I go to Mass with lots of Hispanic families. It never occurred to me to check their status before seeing them as my brothers and sisters in Christ. Immigration is a complicated issue, not so easily reduced to sound bites.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Sorry-- I was just riffing off the Bob the Builder/ Handy Man Manny thing and trying to tie it into something REMOTELY Catholic. (For the record, I'm with the bishops on this one...)

Around here we just have a running joke because it seems like Handy Man Manny is Disney's attempt to be 'inclusive' by taking Bob the Builder and then playing into racist stereo types: Bob is a general contractor with a huge business, Manny does odd jobs... the school principal in Manny is Asian......

Anyway, sorry for the offense...

LeeAnn Balbirona said...

Thank you, Erin. I do appreciate the prayers. In the two months since David's death, we already have passed my birthday, our wedding anniversary, his birthday and now the first All Souls' Day. I am ready for the big significant dates to be over with already! But there's still Thanksgiving, Christmas and one of the children's birthdays to pass before the end of the year...and then really, it starts all over again. Sigh. Anyhow, yes, please do pray for us here on earth and David who has gone before us.

Deirdre Mundy said...

LeAnn -- I'll pray for you and the kids, and that you have all the graces you need to make it through the next few years.

Charlotte (Waltzing Matilda) said...

LeeAnn,

I hope your kids have a wonderful time trick or treating and please know that we will remember your husband and your family in our prayers!

LeeAnn Balbirona said...

Thank you, Deirdre and Charlotte. Sorry, Erin, for OT-ing your comments.

Red Cardigan said...

LeeAnn, as far as I'm concerned, comment boxes are meant for OT-ing. :) Seriously, though, I can't imagine what your family is going through, and I admire what you wrote in your initial post here. "Keeping it fun" regardless of what we do should be the focus, I think.

And Deirdre--sorry if I came off as oversensitive! Unfortunately I've heard too many Catholics say terrible things regarding immigrants, so I tend to be a bit "touchy" on that one.

Dymphna said...

I don't think I'd dress my kid up as a saint for Halloween. That's lame and I'm sure the other kids would laugh at the dork next door.

Rebecca in CA said...

We sometimes dress as saints and sometimes not, when/if we go trick-or-treating. The saints are very much in my children's world of imagination and history, so they often think of saints they'd like to be, especially since they think All Saint's day is about saints. It has begun some interesting conversations. My kids are yet too young to know what a "dork" is, thankfully. Another thing I've done is to pass out holy cards, really nice ones of St. Michael, for instance, with a prayer on the back, with the candy, and I've gotten a lot of really positive response to it.

Charlotte said...

I was thinking about the movie "Meet Me in St. Louis" when the kids went out on Halloween and played pranks on the neighbors and had a bonfire. I can't remember if they were trying to get treats or not, though? I do remember that after the after-dark pranks there were apples and cakes and a "party" back at home.

So - was that scene in the movie a reflection of the early 1900's or do we think it was the 1940's traditions being projected back onto the early 1900's?

Deirdre Mundy said...

Charlotte-- I've been reading old newspapers as part of a job. In 1891, locals here in Indiana celebrated halloween-- the small mischevious boys played pranks, there were a bunch of costume parties, and a bonfire out by the lakes....

No trick or treat, though.

Charlotte (Waltzing Matilda) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlotte (Waltzing Matilda) said...

To Deirdre and the other Charlotte,
This is a website that discusses the history of mischief making on Halloween. Although, seeing the varied histories of trick or treating I've seen lately, I am hesitant to accept anything as 100% gospel truth. I must admit though that it would make sense to me that the Irish, known to be a more superstitious people, would see it as a day to play pranks and blame it on the "restless spirits".

Deirdre Mundy said...

Hmm.. The Irish pranks sound a lot like the ones described in the 1890s newspapers, and the town DID have a lot of Irish.....

The bonfire/ parties/ costume balls also seemed more on the order of 'fall festival' than Halloween specific-- the paper also mentioned costume parties at Christmas!

LeeAnn Balbirona said...

Nice way to be supportive of others' choices, Dymphna. :( Hey, I know what the world needs! A few more people tearing each other down!

Anonymous said...

Catholic Tradition?

I thought the practice was largely a cover to get school age kids out one night a year to guilt their adult neighbors into donating to child relief efforts. That's what it was in the 60s.

After "Trick or treat!" the next words out of our mouths were "Pennies for UNICEF!" The penny cans were distributed at schools. Most households had both candy and pennies at the ready when the bells rang, and we dutifully returned our heavy cans to school the next day.

elizabeth

Siarlys Jenkins said...

While trick or treat is not an ancient holiday with deep Christian spiritual roots, it is not exactly a 20th century American secular invention either.

Like the old customs hazily preserved in the Wassail carol, there were many seasonal occasions in European peasant tradition when the impoverished mass of the community either went door to door soliciting donations (sometimes rather forcefully, and generally as a matter of right) from wealthier members of the community.

One reason that the business class in America in the 1840s invented "Christmas" as a secular holiday was that such old customs were getting out of hand, with the most thuggish element in the community expecting substantial money donations, or they would break windows and burn houses down.

Its only a medium hop from "we have got a little purse of stretching leather skin, we want a little of your money, to line it well within."

Trick or treat is a tame version, watered down to an innocent childhood past-time, of similar customs around the Celtic Samhain transmuted into the Christian All Saints Day / All Hallow's Eve, and passed along in a different fashion via Spain to Mexico.