We will celebrate for any reason or none. Celebration will shade and eventually eclipse whatever is celebrated, such that as time passes, unless we have something like the liturgical anamnesis so we don't forget why we have bread and wine in church on Sundays, we forget whatever the reason was for the celebration, and the party is the thing. So with Halloween.
Our years in Apalachicola, at this time of year one of the larger churches in town loaded up their older children and teens and bused off to a mountain retreat to escape Halloween. To me, an outsider looking in, their fear of our annual nonsense seemed ridiculous and extreme. But outsiders never really understand, and it wasn’t ridiculous at all, that annual fall retreat was for them a wonderful loving time of binding and building. And it was only extreme in their condemning judgment of us in our nonsense. Relative fools, we were only celebrating and had no idea why because a party is a party, while they had explored into the background of what we were celebrating and did not like it.
The internet makes exploration easy. Along with Christmas, which is fairly late, Halloween is a Christianization of ancient pagan festivals. Christianized because a celebration party that has become a culturally imbedded habit, custom, is impossible to stop, and nobody wants to stop it anyway; so, join, take over, and evolve a new reason: Christmas, Halloween. In Halloween we have taken over ancient fall harvest festivals that mingled ancient terror of spirits and fairies such as the aos si, and demons and the dead.
We have long forgotten the terror as superstitious nonsense of darker ages, but the festival continues, changes, evolves, is still changing and evolving, and today is nothing but the “seen,” the party, the show, the fun. The “unseen” behind the celebration is gone. Vestigially, in churches such as ours that are shunting to the periphery, we still try to remember the dead, our loved ones who have died, especially those who died in the past year since the last celebration.
Beyond that, and try as we may to hold on to something that for a while was holy in Halloween, it’s costume up and trick or treat. The goblins are gone and forgotten. Except in our night terrors, they never were real, whatever real means.