Friday, October 31, 2003

Ramadan 2003: Day #5

Day Five: October 31, 2003

Today, among other things is Halloween. The other night, I heard part of an NPR report that spoke of the origins of Halloween Parties in the early 1920s and 1930s. Originally, it was a party primarily for adults, in which board games and card games were played at a house. It was a disposable “holiday” in the sense that it was a one-night event whose longevity ended the next day, when all the decorations were taken down and thrown away. This was contrasted with a “holiday” like Christmas, where decorations stayed up much longer, and many were not thrown away, but were actually passed on from generation to generation…In the end, the NPR report was about the value of these 1920s Halloween relics for those who had preserved them to this day and the collectors of these artifacts.


At the risk of sounding abrupt, this festival of costuming ourselves and “tricking” for “treats” of candies is a rather overt expression of our own paganism—or at least our fascination with surface pleasures in shifting appearance and consumption of what certainly could not be considered “food.”

The closest “religious” explanation I’ve every encountered for our Halloween practices stems from its association with All Soul’s Day, to which Halloween was the Hallowed Eve. The explanation was that we reveled in, and even dressed ourselves up as the very spirits we wished to defeat. In the light of day, (and in time to clean ourselves up for Mass) we recalled how close the spirit world (and that of Death) had come the night before…perhaps we had even crossed its path…and recalled in a more holier (and solemn) setting, those who had gone before us, marked in the sign of faith.

Halloween, for me has always been garish for its bright colors and symbolic of a Puritan repressed past. But within the month of Ramadan, it has been juxtaposed to something quite different, even opposite.

Ultimately, you cannot costume yourself
Neither to Death nor its Master.
Even if it comes but once a year,
Do not throw this truth away.

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