Saturday, October 28, 2023

A dark and unwholesome turn

This weekend Halloween is being celebrated here. The celebration is a bit more subdued than it once was but still, the proprietor of the establishment where I often lunch dreads the drunken revelers that he expects tonight. On television, in movies, and on the street, it has become something much different than it was decades ago. I have come to feel about it much as Barton Swaim:
.... In recent years, as celebrations have become darker and more gruesome, I’ve started to dread its onset.

Part of my aversion arises from my own hidebound premodern Calvinist outlook, in which death is no laughing matter and necromancy is forbidden by God (see Deuteronomy 18:9-13). Forgive my Puritan sensibility, but I find the whole spectacle ugly and offensive and vaguely sinister. What sort of “holiday” deliberately terrifies children with images of murder and ruin and treats torture and death as a joke? ....

I am of course speaking only of the way in which All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, is celebrated by Americans in the 21st century. I grew up in the 1970s and ’80s, when Halloween consisted of trick-or-treating, jack-o’-lanterns, apple-bobbing and maybe a viewing of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

Halloween has since become a kind of industrial cartoon death cult. ....

Nobody likes a scold, and I want to state clearly that I am pro-jack-o’-lantern and trick-or-treating.... But the yearly observance that used to be Halloween has taken a dark and unwholesome turn. My fear is that ironic celebrations of death are becoming less and less ironic.

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