So today is Halloween, which was originally in some parts of Europe the Christian answer to the pagan autumn festivals that marked the end of summer and the coming of winter and, symbolically, death.  The Irish festival of Samhain (pronounced sah-wain) had previously marked the end of the harvest and commemorated the dead.  The Christian answer in western Europe was to commemorate the faithful departed and, through them, to celebrate the victory of Christ over death and the hope of the Resurrection, thus turning the logic of the annual raging against the dying of the light on its head.  The modern Mexican dia de los muertos, about which we were often taught in New Mexico when I was growing up, actually seems to retain more of this Christian sense of the celebration (though it has, like everything else, also been transformed into an excuse to throw a party). 

There is still some small element in the modern Halloween in which the original facing down of death and the attempt (with costumes) to ward of demonic and destructive forces is present, but one notices in the conventional celebration of Halloween a frequent misunderstanding that misses that the ghoulish and frightening costumes were once meant to scare away evil spirits.  Now, for most of the people who are really into Halloween, it is a time to endorse the evil spirits. 

The festival is undoubtedly a holdover from old superstitious practices, and today it has become worse than worthless in its increasingly ridiculous use as little more than a candy-buying extravaganza and an excuse for adults to dress transgressively or shamelessly.  As much as the part of me that is Irish wants to hang on to Halloween if only as a part of my heritage, and as much as I did enjoy Halloween as a kid (growing up as a completely secular kid, I found it was just about the most “spiritual” and “mysterious” day of the year), there really isn’t much to it that holds my interest anymore.