Tomorrow is, of course, Halloween. All Hallows’ Eve has become a major holiday in this country. In our neighborhood, nearly as many houses are decorated for Halloween as will be for Christmas. There are almost as many parties, which, of course, will negatively impact church attendance on Sunday.
I’ve been pondering why what was once a children’s holiday has been taken over by adults. Perhaps this is yet one more thing we can blame on the gays. LOL. When I went to Dallas in the late 1980s Halloween was just becoming a truly major event. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community threw a giant street party just a few blocks down from where the church was located at the time. I have to admit I was surprised by how much people got into Halloween. Remember this was the ’80s, and it was stunning to see men shave their beards and mustaches and women dye their hair and even wear dresses.
I arrived in Dallas on the night before the big party in 1987, so it was my introduction to the community. I was in a bit of a shock as I wandered the street, wondering what my new parish was like and how many of these people would show up for my first sermon. That night, I realized that the Dallas LGBT community was in the midst of the worst of the HIV/AIDS crisis, and events like the Halloween party gave them a great excuse to dress up and escape the specter of death and disease, if only for a little while.
That is not too far removed from the origins of the holiday. It is All Hallows’ Eve or the Eve of All Saints Day. It is a time when we are called to remember those who have died and honor them, and different cultures do that in a variety of ways. Americans do it mostly by denial. We pretend death doesn’t exist. Even in a funeral home, we put enough makeup on a corpse that they often are the heathiest looking person in the room.
So, in our denial, Halloween has NOTHING to do with All Saints’ Sunday … except that the parties tomorrow night will mean fewer people will attend church on Sunday morning, which is a shame. All the partying and makeup in the world won’t keep death at bay. Only life and learning to live it will do that, and it isn’t something you learn on Halloween or behind a mask. It is something you learn in the presence of the One who created you and in a sacred community of fellow struggling saints on their way home.
Rev. Michael Piazza