Hallowe’en then, now and at the White House

I said the wrong thing at church on Sunday.

A minister at St. John Lutheran Church kindly invited my brood to the church’s annual “trunk or treat” event. Hosts decorate themselves and their open car trunks for hungry young souls in need of a sugar fix.

One man stationed beside an open minivan was dressed in medieval monk garb. I introduced him to my kids as St. Francis of Assisi.

Nevermind that I was standing in a Lutheran church parking lot. Or that Lutherans and other protestants often celebrate “Reformation Day” on October 31, the day in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his protests to a Catholic church door. Naturally, the robed man by the minivan was Luther, not St. Francis.

I hope my kids had fun trunk or treating. We won’t be invited back next year.

Obviously, I know very little about this week’s holidays. My explanation of the origin of Halloween to a curious first grader went something like this:

All Hallows’ Day used to be a prominent Christian holiday, kind of like Christmas or Easter. Each November 1st, Christians would celebrate believers who had passed on from this life. On the night before the holiday, some bad people would dress up and do bad things and try to scare people. My thinking: It was like the debauchery of Mardi Gras on the night before Lent.

I made clear that we don’t believe in hurting people or damaging property or scaring the bajeebies out of folks, but we do dress up for fun. Perceptively, my first grader noted, “Yeah, the only bad thing we do now is eat too much sugar.”

Michelle Obama would be happy with his awareness. She can’t be happy about Barack’s comment last week mocking the dried fruit she’s distributed at Halloweens past:

“It’s an election year, so candy for everybody!” the president announced with calculation.

The president is a political monster. He likely knows Obama masks are outselling Romney masks by 20%, according to retailer Spirit Halloween. He won’t know until November 6 whether that’s a trick or a treat.

According to Catholic tradition, All Hallows’ Evening (contracted to Hallowe’en) was a prayer vigil for the dead before two feasts began, All Hallows’ Day and All Souls’ Day. (A somber vigil could not be kept during a celebratory feast.) The browning earth provided a fitting backdrop to consider the end of days.

“Soul cake” desserts were distributed to poor doorknockers who pledged to pray for a dead soul in exchange for the treat. One legend tells of a matriarch who cut a hole in the center of her cakes, leaving a doughnut to symbolize the never ending nature of eternal life.

Costumes may have demonstrated the folly of the outright evil, the torment of those who delay, and the beauty of those who accept the righteousness that leads to life. Disguises also may have been used to hide from spirits seeking their last bit of earthly vengeance before exiting to eternity.

Long-faced jack-o-lanterns represented souls languishing in purgatory. They also may have been used to frighten off the roaming souls.

No doubt intricately carved pumpkins decorate the White House this time of year. Along with all that candy, I wonder if President Obama will pass out résumés. He’s surely fresh out of dollar bills.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

2 Responses to “Hallowe’en then, now and at the White House”

  1. 1 jessestroup October 31, 2012 at 12:39

    Kevin, I really liked the humor in your article and can only imagine Lincoln’s expression about the sweets.  I love that kid – –  and his daddy – – and his mama – – – and all the rest of the flock.  Remember, we like pictures and videos – so don’t be shy about sending them, but don’t miss out in the fun by being too much of a photographer either.  I am still working on travel plans and dealing with the details like arrival times, etc.  You will hear from we soon on this. Jesse

    Jesse R. Stroup

    Director of Spiritual Care

    Lifeline Chaplaincy

    2777 Stemmons Place, Ste. 1020

    Dallas, TX 75207



  2. 2 Dan October 31, 2012 at 13:23

    You successfully integrated fun and education in the same article. Kudos to you! For the record if all you were presented with was a person in a smock, I’m not sure Saint Francis was a feaux pas, unless there was a scroll posted to a nearby doorpost in which I say to you tsk! tsk! which is more than an eye roll and less than a harumph!

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