Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween's Coming: Why aren't I Ranting?

Back in the 'good old days' of my youth, which I'm sincerely glad to have in time's rear-view mirror, a few 'good Christians' went in for an eldritch brew of numerology, fortunetelling and yellow journalism. They were very 'Biblical' about it, though, and probably didn't see anything odd about their beliefs.

That was then. I haven't run into anything quite like that lot for a few decades. Either 'spiritual' fashions have changed, or it was a very regional subculture. Can't say that I miss it.

What I have run into (and avoid, when possible) more recently are rants about Halloween. The holiday, in some people's view, is Satanic: along with beer and Bingo. All of which can be badly misused, of course.

Halloween and Those People

I think part of the problem, apart from the scary costumes and gory movies, is that Halloween isn't a particularly 'American' holiday.
"The celebration of Halloween has dual origins. The first is in a pre-Christian Celtic feast associated with the Celtic New Year. The second is in the Christian celebration of All Saints Day (Nov. 1st) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2). In the British Isles November 1st is called All Hallows, thus the evening before is All Hallows Eve...."
Yeah: Halloween has roots in old Celtic traditions and beliefs; but its name comes from its close association with not one but two (shudder) Catholic celebrations. I know: EWTN refers to All Saints Day and All Souls Day as "Christian" celebrations - and so they are - but they're also something that 'those Catholics' do.

I suspect that the candy hit the fan in the 19th century:
"...With the massive emigration of Irish in the last century the All Hallows Eve customs of costumes, jack-o-lanterns and trick or treating, were transported to North America...."
As an ancestor of mine said, about another ancestor of mine, "he doesn't have family: He's Irish." I don't imagine that Halloween celebrations' association with 'those Irish' helped its reputation.

Halloween, Beer, and Bingo

Catholicism doesn't seem very "Christian" from some points of view. My faith isn't based on the idea that beer and Bingo are works of the devil, along with a handful of other aspects of life that a particular subculture doesn't approve of.

Sure: alcohol abuse is a problem, and so is compulsive gambling. But America tried Prohibition - and most people in this country know how well that went over.1 The Church has prohibitions, but they're against getting drunk, or indulging in any sort of excess. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2290)

When it comes to trick-or treats and other non-destructive aspects of Halloween, the Catholic Church doesn't mind. You can get an idea of what does matter in the reviews of current movies.

It might surprise you. Ten years ago, "The Canterville Ghost" (1944) was recommended family viewing for Halloween.

This year, "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" (2009) got an "A-I -- general patronage" rating from the USCCB. On the other hand, "9" (2009) was rated "L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling." Or, apparently, in the case of this adult, annoying.

How Could Catholic Bishops Possibly Disapprove of an "Artistically Accomplished" Movie?

I'm a bit disappointed by that review of "9": I've seen ads for the movie and had it on my 'see it someday' list.

The USCCB isn't trying to be a killjoy with its rating the movie. The Catholic bishops are making an effort to inform Catholics - and anybody else who's interested - what Catholicism is, and how Catholic beliefs are applied in today's culture.

The "9" review gives the bottom line good news and bad news about the movie in the first paragraph:
"Artistically accomplished but intellectually problematic animated fantasy in which the doll-like titular creature ... leads a band of similar beings ... as they battle giant mechanical monsters amid the ruins of a post-apocalyptic world. ... implicitly contrasts a naysaying version of religious faith with enlightening science, a false dichotomy that, despite some eventual modifications, requires mature deliberation by spiritually well-grounded viewers...."
(movie review, USCCB)
Showing sophistication and 'intelligence' by contrasting "a naysaying version of religious faith with enlightening science" is firmly anchored in this culture's assumptions. But that doesn't mean that it's true.

And I see that I've drifted into another topic. Which I've discussed recently. And probably will, again.

Almost-related posts:
1Actually, while it lasted it created a source of revenue for at least one monastery in this area. They made a tidy income, manufacturing stills which were in high demand between passage of the 18th and 21st amendments to the Constitution.


Jason said...

I like your site, it's a very interesting read. I have a site myself that provides inspiration and guidance to people around the world. I was wondering if you wanted to exchange links to let our readers know about both our sites. Let me know.


Brian H. Gill said...


Thank you for the good words.

I've looked over - not the entire site, but what I trust is a representative sample. It looks like a good place to stop and share experiences and insights.

That's the good news. The bad news, as far as this blog is concerned, is that it's not specifically focused on 'Catholic' topics. And, therefore, falls outside the focus of this blog.

But there's more good news: made a good topic for a post in another blog of mine, Apathetic Lemming of the North.

I did a micro-review of in "Throw it Against the Wall, See if It Sticks."

Thank you again, this time for giving me material for my daily quota in that blog.

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.