I've been dreaming in the nightSince 1986, Daylight Savings Time has ended on the Sunday before Halloween, ensuring that the spookiest holiday brings with it an ominous early nightfall. But Congress in its eternal wisdom has decreed that beginning in 2007, Daylight Savings Time will last until the first Sunday in November. One of the "benefits" of this change, lawmakers claim, is that kids can now go trick-or-treating during daylight hours.
Shadows on the window
--Dave Matthews Band, "Halloween"
Huh? This is a good thing?
Darkness is the whole point of Halloween. It's like having a white Christmas, or a sunny Easter morning, except that the latter two are a matter of luck for people in temperate climates. But night always comes. And when night falls, Halloween begins.
The holiday has been a matter of controversy in recent years, with some folks claiming that it glorifies evil and constitutes a religious celebration (that religion being Satanism). A more secular viewpoint counters that Halloween is harmless fun, a chance to eat candy and play dress-up, and that we shouldn't take it so seriously.
My opinion, as always, lies somewhere in the middle.
Halloween is about the darkest elements of our lives: fear and death. More importantly, fear of death. The ancient Celts celebrated Halloween's forerunner, Samhain, the time when the barriers between this world and the next were thinnest, the time when the souls of the dead walked the earth to be entertained by the living.
Halloween lets us play with our fear of death. By bringing the ultimate mystery out into the open and ritualizing it with costumes and scary tales, we can face our mortality in the comfort of a community celebration. Fear in the context of fantasy is manageable, even empowering. We can revel in the things that would otherwise turn our stomachs or freeze our blood, knowing that they're not real. We can even be the things we fear most, thus rendering them powerless.
Those of us who celebrate Christmas need Halloween for balance, in the same way we need Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday; Easter and Good Friday.
Halloween shouldn't be condemned as an invitation to the devil, and it shouldn't be sanitized as a bland, meaningless "harvest festival." Either view misunderstands both its origins and its spiritual purpose in our lives today.
Halloween is our one night to dance with the shadows, knowing the sun will rise tomorrow.