Fall is here. Summer things are
packed away and in the Midwest we are pulling out our long-sleeve
shirts and wool sweaters. Shopping centers, however, have been ready
for fall since July 5th. For about a week and a half they touted
"Back to School" motifs (a few colored leaves and giant
pencils). Then they went right on to what has somehow become one
of the biggest holidays of the year: Halloween.
Halloween has been a popular secular holiday for
children since way before I was a youngster. But within the last
few years it seems to have caught on for adults too. Think of the
millions of dollars spent on decorations and treats. (Has anyone
else noticed how Halloween decorations, complete with outside lights
and garlands, are beginning to rival Christmas decorations in popularity?)
At the same time many adults are becoming increasingly concerned
about recognizing this holiday that seems to celebrate witches and
We need to be informed and ready to answer the
questions and concerns of the folks who approach us on this subject.
By reviewing the Christian roots of "All Hallow's Eve"
we can help others at least understand where the symbols of ghosts
and devils, skulls and skeletons come from. Page McKean Zyromski
addresses the issue in a recent Catholic Update, "How
Halloween Can Be Redeemed."
Some adults also worry about how an emphasis on
the devil and witches might negatively affect youngsters and adolescents.
Ms. Zyromski has a response to this question as well. In a 2001
Update she tells young people to pay attention to their
"gut." She suggests using her "up or down rule":
When you are weighing your choices and
the value of your activities, I'd like to suggest the "upward
and outward" or "downward and inward" rule. In
other words, do songs, books and games lift your heart up (to
appreciate God's love and care for you) and out (to widen your
compassion and understanding of other people)? Or do they pull
you downward (diminish your trust in God's care, make you depressed)
and inward (make you more self-focused and even morbid)?
She goes on to tell teens that they are
old enough to notice such things about themselves and "to quit
taking in the garbage." Good advice for all of us. (For more
on the Christian roots of Halloween, check
out AmercanCatholic.org's Halloween feature.)
When it comes to difficult topics, we are
quickly learning a few minutes on the Internet can help us find
answers even faster than calling our local library resource person.
For answers to your questions about Catholicism, check out the AmericanCatholic.org
Web site. It is an excellent resource. For example, to find
out information on the influence of Harry Potter, just type in the
boy wizard's name in the article search box. You'll find some interesting
Finally, for an idea on how your youth or
intergenerational group can turn Halloween trick-or-treating into
a parish-wide service project, read the Family Column below.