When I was a kid I dreaded Halloween.
I was a weird kid, you see. Once I joined drawing classes for small children. All kids would use full colour palette, draw flowers, rainbows and sunshines. I would go for black and white, and then draw skulls, devils and graveyards. I was three.
When I was four I got food poisoning, and had to stay under under drip attached to bed for two days in a row. To keep me entertained my Mum bought a book with ghost stories and kept reading it over and over again. I was so thrilled I remember nothing of pain.
I loved horrors, monsters, everything eerie and spooky. I devoured horror stories as soon as I was able to read (which was quite early).
And so there was this once celebration in a year, that would fit all my passions.
Why would I dread Halloween then?
Because I was not allowed to celebrate it.
In Poland it was and still is not that common to practice and celebrate Halloween. We have All Saints Day instead, on 1st of November.
It was hard for me as a kid to understand why instead of dressing up as Dracula I had to wear nice clothes and go to Church for Mass.
Why instead of visiting neighbours houses to gather sweets I had to visit graveyards and pray for long gone family members and why, (which was even more scary) I had to risk a chance of meeting the living ones… all those aunts, uncles and cousins.
It was hard to comprehend for a child why would he need to participate in a somber pilgrimage of All Saints to light candles on family graves instead of joining the colourful, fun carnival of Halloween.
It is only when I grew up, the true value of All Saints become clear. All Saints was first time when I as a child was exposed to the mature concept of death.
And it was done in the right way. There was something subliminal, ultimate about it. When I listened to my father telling me about each of these people buried in the graves we visited a whole new dimension of universe was revealed to me. I got to know that there is end to life here on earth, that people that once walked the Earth, that smiled and loved, that were part of my parents life are now gone… and went somewhere else. We are paying tribute to those who already reside with God, in hope that one day, we will join them.
I slowly come to understand that there is a Powerful Ghost behind All Saints Day celebration. That Ghost shows us not only the gravity of death but also the promise of the Eternal Life.
And despite the fact that All Saints might have seen grim and melancholic at first glance, there was a MEANING behind it, and it carried a great deal of optimism. The dim fires from candles at the graveyards were like human souls united with God, standing against the darkness of this world.
And once I understood that, the contrast between All Saints and Halloween became even more apparent. This time however, it was the cheesy Halloween, that didn’t seem that appealing anymore.
Because behind the extravagant costume there was a rotten body. And a malicious ghost. What is this ghost behind Halloween, then?
In fact, there is a legion of them. Some are autonomous, spiritual entities, just waiting for the invite that might come in a form of stupid game of “ghost conjuring”. But today I will not write about these ghosts.
There is another one, which I want to mention , that is especially common, and very prominent – demon of commerce. It is that one, that makes Halloween that shallow.
Halloween just entertains, like everything else in the hedonistic, materialistic society we live in. Nowadays everything is becoming trivialised. And with Halloween, even death becomes a plastic product.
In a flashy propaganda of “buy and sell” there is no space for reflection. No time to ponder upon the ultimate. No atmosphere to pray. No encouragement to stop and think.
There is only scream of pop-culture, opportunity like any other to spent money on a stuff you don’t need, to party, get wasted, get stoned, get laid only this time – while dressed in a zombie costume. It is just another attempt to make our life nothing more but a frenzied, chase for endless pleasure.
Now as an adult, I dread Halloween even more. Not only because it is so much more popular, but also because I have someone to take care of.
In all that noise, will I be able to preserve the legacy I was given, will I able to pass it to my own children?
I ask myself this question each time, my older son points at the window shield of toy shop with a huge “Halloween” banner, which shines, like a smile of a malicious imp.
God help me, I will teach him to see through it.
God and All Saints.