How people worship is entirely up to them. So long as we don’t hurt each other, I don’t typically judge other peoples' religions. So when it comes to Halloween, I have to chuckle at all the religious fervor — and idiocy.
So right off the bat, let me just 'fess up to being a devout Christian who is also a practicing Roman Catholic. I attended Catholic grade school and university. I am also Irish, which has definitely influenced my opinion on the matter.
With that said, I don’t get my undies in a bunch or hide under my bed when it comes to Halloween. I don’t believe the devil is out to get me on Oct. 31 more than he would other days of the year. I don’t think evil needs an appointment to rear its head.
Halloween is fun. Ghosts and witches and goblins and devils are festive. Trick or treating is a childhood rite of passage. It is a tradition — one of America’s very few. I support it. I encourage it. Big green light on Halloween from me.
Halloween is not a celebration of evil, although I am sure there are a slight fraction of wackos out there who take advantage of the day to go extra nutty. By and large, I interpret Halloween as a celebration of our history and culture.
I invoke the name of the late, great Father Kevin Shanley, a Carmelite who taught me incredible things about Celtic pagan traditions, which are still honored in Irish Catholicism today. He taught me that the Celts believed there was a thin veil between the living and the dead. This is what I mean by my Irish roots having influenced my attitude about this holiday.
On Oct. 31, that veil was the thinnest, they believed. They called it Samhain, (prounounced sow-ahn). It was a harvest festival. Later, it was called All Soul’s Day (or Eve), and Nov. 1 is still celebrated in the Catholic Church as All Saint’s Day.
Catholics everywhere profess our faith to the communion of saints, regularly calling on them to intervene from heaven to matters here on Earth. Yes, saints may be dead, but they are not gone, I believe.
In America, all these crazy loop-de-loop Halloween rumors have been spread about poisoned candy and witches killing babies and Lord knows what else. Well, I’m here to tell ya, they were pretty much false. Here’s why I know.
Back in the day, I reported on Halloween’s occult, including Wicca. I had an enlightening interview with an FBI agent who specializes in these groups. (And before readers jump up and down on me, I am using the classic definition of "occult," which means hidden. The meaning doesn't suggest good or bad. It is a broad definition, which includes the Free Masons, who are a secretive society.)
He told me that hidden religions are not responsible for the hoopla they get blamed for. The poisoned trick or treat candy back in the '80s was a father trying to kill his little girl (not a religious motive). He said Wiccans do not sacrifice humans of any age. All the hype was nonsense and fear.
Wicca, aka witchcraft, is a pagan, nature-based religion. In general, they believe in goddess and god, not heaven or hell. Hence, there is no devil to worship. I’ve read several versions of the Wiccan Rede, and all include a phrase similar to “and ye harm none.”
The Samhain celebration I attended reminded me of a lot of Catholic rituals, actually. It was a cross between my Sunday Mass and something a Native American would practice. No, it wasn't my cup of tea, but it didn't hurt anybody either.
A lot of people freak out on Halloween, keeping their kids locked up at home. I don’t think God is going to mind if you dress them up as Dorothy or Spiderman to go door to door.
My message is this: use the same kind of parental discretion that you would in any other situation. Choose costumes that are respectful and age-appropriate. Knock on doors of people you know. And talk to your kids about what the holiday means.
My 2-year-old received a stuffed Frankenstein that sings “Monster Mash.” I don’t think he’s going to hell because he likes pushing the button on and off.
All religions have extremists and crazies. Nobody has the monopoly on that. I don't think any particular day does either.