On Halloween: The demons & monsters are us–and so are the angels.

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boy costume

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boy costume

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I struggle with why we are so offended with seeing human beings dressed up like monsters for two hours, when for the other 364 days of the year we see monsters dressed up like human beings, killing and raping and stealing and occupying and pillaging.
This, all of this, is us. We are the monster.
 We are the angelic. We are the human where the monstrous and the divine mingle.

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  • farooha

    Thanks for the nice article! That’s what I thought about our neighbors too. I am usually the friendly neighbor, but they seem to be friendly back when it is Halloween, Christmas or Thanksgiving (I’m in NYC).

  • DiNovia

    I do not agree. Putting the history of Halloween (a contraction of the words All Hallows Evening, which has been a predecessor to the Christian holidays of All Hallows Day and of All Saints Day since the 16th century) aside, I reject that the holiday how we currently celebrate it is simply a celebration of monsters and demons. How many children take the opportunity to dress up as heroes and heroines? Fireman, police officers, super heroes, nurses, doctors, scientists, wonderful characters from books and movies and television roam the streets on this night, too. Also running around in the crowds of little kids excited by sweet treats are dogs, cats, dinosaurs, pumpkins, bananas, bumblebees, fairies, wizards, princesses, video game characters, and the occasional solar system (my cousin’s daughter). In fact, I would say that the non-monster, non-demon costumes outnumbered the monster/demon costumes in my neighborhood 8 to 1.

    So when you dismiss Halloween as a celebration of monsters/demons, you show your ignorance of both the history of the festival and your ignorance of the children in your own community, many of whom take the opportunity to dress up as wonderful, caring, heroic figures in order to feel wonderful and heroic themselves.

    The point of Halloween has never, ever been to celebrate monsters/demons. In the 16th century, All Hallows Eve, All Hallows Day, and All Saints Day were a festival to remember the dead. They were Holy Days of Obligation in the primitive Christian church and were meant to remember and sometimes to pacify the souls of the departed in communities who believed that the dead could influence the world of the living.

    Now, Halloween has been co-opted by candy companies to further sales of candy. It’s not a religious festival any more. However, that doesn’t mean that children don’t learn anything from the holiday or that it should be avoided by Christians or any other faith.

    In Judaism, we are taught that the masks we wear daily hide our truest selves and that the bravest of all of us remove those masks no matter what the personal cost (Book of Esther). Can Halloween instead be seen as a time when children can dress up as either something they long to be (heroic, powerful), something they struggle with (darkness or pain), or something they want to explore more closely (how it feels to be a cat or a solar system)? Can it not be seen as an exercise in learning empathy, in exploring one’s own humanity, in engaging creativity and whimsy?

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