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Halloween is commercial and unnecessary. Can’t we give it a rest?

Halloween is a post-Christian celebration which compels us to buy things which we don’t need. We should return to our Christian roots and throw All Saints parties instead.

By on Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Young boy dressed as a vampire for Halloween (Photo: PA)

Young boy dressed as a vampire for Halloween (Photo: PA)

So, what are you doing for Halloween?

I myself am doing absolutely nothing, but it is easy for me as I do not have any children. There are no little people in my house pestering me to take them out trick or treating, or to decorate the hallway with fake cobwebs, or to help them dress up as witches. For all of which I am profoundly grateful; and as for those parents who have to do all these things, you have my sympathy.

It is always risky to frown on something that other people enjoy and which seems of itself harmless. After all Halloween is hardly akin to liking gladiatorial contests or bear-baiting. Nevertheless, I am not a fan of Halloween.

In Italy, Halloween arrived, as it did here, from America, but some years later. Italians despise Halloween; they see it as an import from what they call “il mondo Anglo-sassone”, and thus foreign to their culture and damaging to it. Here too some purists might see children celebrating Halloween as a part of the continuing MacDonaldsisation of our culture, but this argument is not a particularly strong one with me. On the whole I would like Britain to be more like America; and many good things have come to us from the US and been absorbed by us, such as eating turkey at Christmas.

My real beef with Halloween is that it is commercial and unnecessary. We do not need yet another ersatz feast which compels us to buy things we do not need. We have had it up to here already with our commercialised Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and so on. Can’t we give it all a rest, and allow our supermarkets to sell us things that we actually need? In fact my objection to Halloween is the same as my objection to Christmas as currently celebrated: the religious meaning has been lost under a tsunami of schmaltz. Just as at Christmas we need to celebrate the birth of Christ, at Halloween we need to celebrate the first Vespers of All Saints.

Halloween seems to me to be not a pagan celebration, but rather a post-Christian celebration. When you cut down the tree, all sorts of secondary growths spring up. Because we no longer celebrate Christian feasts, we still need something to celebrate, and thus we make do with Halloween.

It would be good to hold All Saints parties instead; or parties for All Souls, with a trip to visit the family graves. That would be beneficial fro children! And as for dressing up, what’s wrong with Carnival?

  • Visitor

    All Hallows Eve and the fury of the fallen angels at the redemption of humanity, and – is this controversial- the reconciliation of some, others , to God by a great effort of the sort acknowledged on All Saints Day. I would welcome an orthodox Catholic response to this, a deeply serious matter!

    p.s.
    how cheering are the images of Mexican celebrations of the Day of the Dead.

  • Chris McLaughlin

    Halloween isn’t “Anglo-Saxon” – it’s Celtic. It’s origins are in Scotland and Ireland, where it has been continuously marked since before anyone can remember. Scots and Irish took it to America and from there it spread throughout the world due to the cultural influence of Ameerican film and television.

    Quite  frankly, your Italian friends have a bloody cheek, as exactly the same thing happened with pizza, or is that “Anglo-Saxon” too?

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    Italians use the words Anglo-Saxon to describe the whole English speaking world, I am afraid. I have told them that this is inaccurate bordering on the racist, but no one ever listens to me.

  • nytor

    Bordering on the racist? How so?

  • nytor

    I gravely disapprove of Halloween on three grounds: 1) the pagan/occult aspect and that it encourages people to explore these things or to regard them as not harmful 2) the foreign aspect – the Americanisation of our culture and 3) the general social nuisance aspect, of old people being scared in their homes by brats insisting on bribes or they’ll put a firework through the letterbox and so on. No I don’t want to give you a “treat” to help you celebrate a foreign promotion of the occult, and if you’re the parents then you should damn well know better and be ashamed. Be off with you.  

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    Becaue many of us Brits have hardly a drop of Teutonic blood in us.

  • paulpriest

    What absolute piffle!!!

    Certainly in Eastern & Central Europe there are traditional All Hallows parties where kids dress up as their famous saint…and I’m all for the extension of traditions and cultural rituals all over the place.
    Humans are ritual beings – especially children – if you don’t provide kids with a ritual they will invent their own [the same goes with regulations and morality - if they aren't provided with one they'll create their unique version gleaned from snippets, analogies, stories, superstitions and personal experience]

    BUT

    It’s Hallowe’en!!!
    Ghouls, ghosties, long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night
    It’s time for the security of being frightened  out of one’s wits one second and laughing oneself silly the next..of hiding under the blanket while the vampire’s climbing out his coffin or the chinese ghosts out of the TV or the serial killer’s ringing from inside the house or the zombies have broken in through the back door or the nice next door granny has buried the milkman under the azaleas and boils kiddywigs in a cauldron or that the local ladies of the WI sacrifice goats and dance around the hillside in the nuddy…
    …and gathering the centuries of traditions and cultic praxes and all the fantastic horror traditions from the gothic, the phantasmagorical and the chthonic..
    …and so what if it’s been americanised?
    There’s a bit of revisionism going on when we;re constantly being informed in the media of its only recent adoption in the UK – it’s not true – I went hallowe’ening as a child nearly forty years ago and my parents did it 20 odd years before me as did their parents…

    I should advise ANYONE who wishes to abandon Hallowe’en to read Chesterton on the issue…

    http://www-personal.umich.edu/~esrabkin/DragonsGrandmother.htm

    http://www.online-literature.com/chesterton/tremendous-trifles/17/

    ..and probably the wisest thing EVER said about child-rearing

    “Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.”

    For crying out loud we’re Catholics – the only people who still believe that demons exist and you’re asking for us to kick it out into the long grass because it’s crass and vulgar??!!!

    YE GODS MAN…
    It’s a popular tradition – it’s SUPPOSED to be crass and vulgar…as ridiculous as the vol-au-vents and bacofoil coronets at a queen’s jubilee street party; as gaudy and ludicrously saccharine and narcissistic as any outpouring of public grief.or display of indignant outrage..

    There will ALWAYS be an England…
    …and my England will have plastic pumpkins and foam skeletons and polystyrene pitchforks while kids overindulge on tooth-breaking diabetes-inducing radioactively coloured confections to their hearts’s content while they get the willies scared out of them watching films of some long-haired korean ghost walking out of a mirror or scantily clad sorority girls getting slashed by by a psychopath in a skimask…

    Father – were you ever a child?
    Or are you doing a Benjamin Button?

    Let’s have a bit of fun!
    And tomorrow we can celebrate our Saints….

  • Mattrowlatt

     It’s just a bit of fun for the kids guys ! I’d suggest putting up a note on your front door simply stating you are not participating this year. Also, if you do want to celebrate this All Saints Feast day you don’t have to dress up as a ghost or something to do it. Originally this day was to celebrate the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter. Maybe go to church dressed as a farmer ;)

  • Mattrowlatt

    “encourages people to explore Pagan/occult aspect” …..Nothing wrong with looking into other religions and beliefs. I think people should be encouraged to explore all religions and if they wish choose the faith that suits their beliefs. I “gravely disapprove” of brainwashing kids from an early age into a religion that their parents/guardians forced them into or felt obliged to push them towards. 

  • NewMeena

    The French (for example French building workers) use the words Anglo-Saxon as they mutter between themselves, not realising that an anglophone’s French listening skills may be better than her spoken ones.

  • paulpriest

     Oh for crying out loud we’re natured and nurtured- and more of the windrush generation and our 70s southern asia influx are more British than some of us who’ve had bloodlines here for the tens of millennia…

    Being British is a state of being!!!

  • GratefulCatholic

    I don’t think it is fun and harmless. I think it is the work of the Devil and that it has no place in Catholic Christian life.

  • JabbaPapa

    It’s just a bit of fun for the kids guys !

    No, it’s a crassly commercialised form of blatantly overt worship of hedonism.

  • JabbaPapa

    I strongly disapprove of fawning intellectual relativism and cultural suicide posing as a virtue.

  • JabbaPapa

    That’s because it’s not racist, at least not in either Italian or French — whose native speakers quite happily distinguish (when needed) between the various components of what constitutes “Anglo-Saxon” in their languages — just as we in ours know how to distinguish English, Welsh, Scots, Manx, Liverpudlian, etc from “British”.

  • Kevin

    which compels us to buy things we do not need

    A couple of years ago I heard an advert featuring a newly-invented “tradition” with great commercial potential – “Easter presents”.

    Dressing up (modestly) for the Notting Hill Carnival may be fine if you are Afro-Caribbean and live in London. Otherwise, it is as alien to Britons as dragon costumes on Chinese New Year.

  • Mattrowlatt

    I can see why some Catholics may think that GC but I am just open to the celebration side of this day and if my kids (aged 5 and 3) are having a good time dressing up then how can that be evil ? 
    The work of the Devil is falsehoods, corruption and lies working towards an agenda for a persons own means and making people do that work for him/her. A certain person in effect started a religion in Roman times in order to keep Christians under his control and did this by stating he was one of them. When this belief was put into print he and his counsel only chose those religious texts and evidence that suited their agenda to keep those Christians under control. They blatantly ignored all the other evidence that was there in front of them written by those or on behalf of those who walked alongside Christ.That person was Constantine.I am baptized and confirmed Catholic but the years have opened my eyes to my belief being a personal one on one relationship with God. My Church is in my heart. I don’t need a Priest giving me a fire and brimstone speech to bring me closer to God. I learn about God in my own way and if my children ask me “Who is God ?” I tell them all the different beliefs of all the different religions I know so they can make their own mind up. The same goes with “festival days” such as today. I have told my kids all about the Christian All Saints Day, the Pagan belief of the celebration of the end of the harvest, The Mexican Day of the Dead. I’ll soon be telling them about Diwali (if they ask). Being open to a day like today is not the work of the Devil. 

  • Rizzo The Bear

    Good for the Italians, I say!

    Until my family began printing off ‘No Trick or Treat Thank You’ notices to stick on our front door for the last few years, the doggone doorbell would ring like a manic pinball machine with being pressed by second-rate Hammer-horror movie look-alike extras in minature. 

    We’d get up, answer the door with the chain on, the kids would ask ‘Trick or Treat?’, we’d say ‘go away!’ and eggs and/or excrement would be thrown at our window.And people call this ‘fun’?I’m also fed up to the back teeth with so-called ‘carol singers’ who only know ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’  and nothing else! On comes my Simon Cowell head to tell them their repertoire leaves a lot to be desired and they sound like cats with haemorrhoids!Another thing that brings out the Victor Meldrew in me is when shops stock Easter Eggs in January, godawful Valentine’s Day tut, Christmas bookings for parties taken in July…AAAAARRRRGGGHHH!!!!Oh, and you can thank the protestants for banning Feast Days!

  • Guest

    Good grief Paul, your comment was longer than the original.

  • whytheworldisending

    Its anti-christian and harmful because it desensitizes children to things they ought to avoid, blurring the distinction between good and evil. Its also a nuisance to have to open ones door repeatedly at night time – particularly for the elderly living alone. We don’t, on Christmas Eve, engage in unkind acts, before the peace and goodwill which descends on Christmas day, so why pretend to be evil before All Hallows Eve? Perhaps we should offer trick-or-treaters a blessing or a prayer.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    It’s an Americanism, profoundly linked to commercial sales, and spiritually damaging. What is there to like?

  • Sweetjae

    Another misdirected charge due to ignorance. Halloween is an ancient Celtic festival originated in Ireland then to Sotland at the time of Christ.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Let me wearily recast my post below for the sake of the illiterate Americans on the thread:

    “In its modern form, Halloween is an Americanism, profoundly linked to commercial sales, and spiritually damaging. What is there to like?”

  • Sweetjae

    Now hear yeah, totally different, huh, when you put the words “in it’s modern form” but since you didn’t at the first post, it’s the epitome of absurdity that characterized an illiterate old Englishman.

  • Sweetjae

    And we like the kids wearing superhero customs walking around neighborhood at night having fun, so what is your problem with that? Oh you guys couldn’t walk at night, right? Is it the fog or the rain?

  • Patrickhowes

    This is one time I do not agree with you.

  • Woodie

    talking of spiritually damaging, I see that you are the CEO this tax avoidance company Benedict http://www.caravelpartners.net/en/go/who-we-are

  • whytheworldisending

    Now who was it said “There’s nothing wrong with a bit of fun is there?” (Answer below) A lot of “Middle England” has been successfully brainwashed into going along with whatever the controllers of wealth tell you to do, even when they try to tell us how to have fun. Catholic Identity – though not the cafeteria variety – should make us different from the crowd . Horror is not funny. If we love Halloween so much why can’t people go door to door with pictures of aborted foetuses – or tell a few racist jokes while they’re there? Because these horrors don’t just happen to other people? (It was Jimmy Saville).

  • Guest

     How do you know that it is the same Benedict Carter?

  • Woodie
  • Lewispbuckingham

     ‘I would welcome an orthodox Catholic response to this deeply serious matter’
    Not sure if a Catholic on the cross benches will do.
     It may start by reviewing ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ by Mussorgsky, as shown in the Disney animation, Fantasia.
     In this the light of Christ, as shown as the Monks process to prayer and dawn breaks, banishes evil, as portrayed by the fallen angels and men.
     It is only speculation that Lucifer rebelled because of our state and opportunity for sanctifying grace, giving us a share in the life of Christ.
     What is clear for the Catholic is that we have Christ’s mother as mediatrix of all graces.
    The human dimension of this may be explored by listening again to the Ave Maria, juxtaposed to Night on Bare Mountain.
    I occasionally pray for ‘the devil’, in that their pain be made less, although if the pain is one of lack of intellectual assent to the reality of God’s goodness, I may be making the situation worse.
    As for fallen humans, I hope that through the Divine Mercy and God’ infinite providence, no one makes it to Hell.

  • Enid Ecumaniac

    We at the St. Martin Luther Institute of Advanced Ecumenical Heresy are very much in favour of Halloween. All that nocturnal activity around (and on top of) gravestones; and the rituals, especially the main one at midnight, and the interesting people one meets (although we did get a bit concerned last year at the sudden appearance of that chap with a goat’s head and shiny red eyes). 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Never heard of laws against libel, Woodie?

  • Modern Revert

     Hands off Halloween! The parish I grew up in had a party for the kids, in addition to treat or treating.  I never heard a priest say anything against it, other than to remind everyone that Nov 1 was a Holy Day of Obligation!

  • nytor

    A passport does not magically transform someone into being British. I’m proud of having Anglo-Saxon and Norman blood and I’m proud of the Germanic roots of the language and so I enjoy the designation “Anglo-Saxon”. I think some people are far too quick to see racism everywhere.

  • nytor

    Well, that tells you more about the state of the modern clergy than about the merits or otherwise of Halloween.

  • nytor

    When they threaten or upset people or disturb people in their homes? It’s selfish, it’s a nuisance and it’s foreign. Parents should not encourage it.

  • nytor

    “Its also a nuisance to have to open ones door repeatedly at night time – particularly for the elderly living alone”

    I recommend steadfastly ignoring the selfish idiots.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    They are indeed. Englishmen and women nowadays are imprisoned by a fog of Soviet-style lies. it’s all quite deliberate.

  • Woodie

     never heard the teachings of Jesus Benedict?

  • Nat_ons

    You mistake the purpose of this ‘feast’. It is specifically ‘pagan’ for a divine purpose – like the Yule revels, and April Fools. Hallowe’en, moreover, is far more safely anchored in sound Christian doctrine than the other human-centred recollections of the church’s year.

    “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, abusers of youths, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers — none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” 1 Cor 6 : 9-11.

    What is missing, rather, from Hallowe’en today is All Hallows; for such as other sinners were we born to be in Adam – only in Christ can we inherit under the Rule of God. I cannot say reclaim Hallowe’en – or Winterval or Springtide Feastval – that is not their divine purpose. The life of the church catholic, the body of Christ, sanctifies these short-fallen fancies .. by witnessing in season and out of Christ, the only name by which we are saved, amid them (not in wishing they would just go away): or face the dreadful consequences of obdurately clinging to our sins.

    “For if we wilfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgement, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” Heb 10 : 26-27.

    PS: The Second Vatican Council did not demote the consequences of freely chosen disobedience to God’s just will – sin, death, damnation and hell. It asked for a fuller, and better adjusted, focus on the purpose of that will: not death but life. For only in keeping all of the Four Last Things in mind can we properly witness to our living faith in Christ – God’s purpose for us all.

    “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” Jer 29 : 11.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Ok, if you are going to play like that Woodie, a telephone call to the Herald’s lawyer will be made. Let’s find out who you are.

  • Jeannine

    If I’m not mistaken Halloween started out as something good—— to scare away the evil spirits with the costumes. I love seeing homes decorated with jack-o-lanterns, skeletons, witches & anything else scary. When a house is decorated it is assumed that the owners will give out treats.  It was innocent fun. (Of course there was always a horrible homeowner who inserted razor blades in the apples.) It was always a kid’s day since the 1950s.
     
    In my neck of the woods, stores have recently been going nuts over this holiday making it into a very expensive & leaving nothing to the imagination. Also, I now see adults dressing up & going trick or treating, some with their kids & some alone.
     
    There have always been Halloween parties for adults & trick or treating for children. To me it’s as if the adults have taken over all aspects of Halloween & perverted it. —–making it into something very political & anti-religion. Has anyone ever watched the Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village, NYC? 

  • Sweetjae

    So sorry but I strongly disagree with you and thats not what we have experienced here nor heard ever.

  • Sweetjae

    Wow!!!thanks for the link.

  • Sweetjae

    Unbelievable!

  • Sweetjae

    Do you also favor Alice in Wonderland? How about the movie The Wrath of the Titans, there’s a lot of pagan gods and rituals there too!

    One word, Paranoia!

  • Sweetjae

    It’s not about the merits or the Halloween itself that is being celebrated, actually the original aim of HALLOWeen is good, warding off evil spirit. The kids have a chance to wear their favorite heroes and having fun with friends and family (of course there are some abuses as everywhere) but does it violate any Dogma??

  • Sweetjae

    Blurring between good and evil-Nonsense. If you are grumpy and judgmental then put a sign outside saying to kids to get lost….i thought Christians are supposed to be patient and giving???

  • Sweetjae

    Very judgmental and just being grumpy.