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    brightly lit Halloween decorations in the dark

    Death to Adult Halloween. (Long Live Adult Halloween.)

    Halloween is just for kids? Only if you do it wrong.

    By Clare Coffey

    October 31, 2023
    • Jonathan Edwards

      Halloween is short for "holy evening," the holiest night in the occult calendar. It is the Devil's night. It is the last thing Christian adults or children should be celebrating.

    • Simon

      All hallows is a holy catholic feast to remember the dead. Halloween is a commercialized pagan holiday! Let's have some clarity. Plough should not publish this unchristian garbage.

    • Jordan Braun

      I have a hard time with Halloween. Childish, adultish, or otherwise. Regardless of the historic origins of the celebration, or the harmlessness of asking your neighbours for candies while dressed in ridiculous costumes. In particular, it is the modern "spirit" of Halloween that rubs me the wrong way. Though proponents point to the children in animal costumes consuming candy and ask what harm is that? Then I walk through the malls, the stores, and consume the popular media. All around me is praise and joyful embracement of things which are intentionally evil. Demons, ghouls, ghosts, death and destruction. Even the animated film, "The Nightmare before Christmas" understands this "spirit" of Halloween. As a Christian, who is called to celebrate that which is good, cannot participate in a celebration of that which is evil. I won't celebrate evil, and as such, I don't celebrate Halloween. When Halloween returns to the rememberance of the dead or the celebration of the Martyr's, perhaps I can come around to celebrate the "un"holiday of Halloween. Until then, I will not be dressing up. You're more than welcome to joining me in this counter-cultural boycott.

    • Cecilia Kingman

      This is such a beautifully written piece, but I have to mention that I almost stopped after the first sentence. My heart aches to see the use of the word “lame” in a publication like Plough. Please be more careful with such terms. Ableist language, language which causes pain to disabled people, any language which shuts out rather than embraces-these are beneath this publication and certainly beneath a writer as gifted as Claire clearly is.

    Adult Halloween is very lame. Ninety percent of people wear some stupid plastic Spirit Halloween store hot nurse thing, go to a party with other celebrants of adult Halloween, and get drunk on Jell-O shots. There is grimly determined mayhem there, but no real anarchy. It is a poor excuse for Mardi Gras (or, if you are from Philadelphia, New Year’s Day mumming). It is an attempt to recreate what cannot be recreated: the slinky darkness descending on the town upon which you, a child, were about to be unleashed; the cold breath of frost on Mischief Night.

    Some would have us abandon adult Halloween together. The line between childhood and adulthood is the one between wildness and order, pleasure and responsibility. Halloween is a festival for children, in this line of criticism, and childless millennials would do better to get a clue, settle down, and work toward becoming stewards of childhood delight rather than trying to rummage up their own.

    brightly lit Halloween decorations in the dark

    Photograph by PhotoSpirit.

    But Halloween is for all the living and all the dead. It is the festival for everyone; even the devil tries to gatecrash. And to draw an oppositional line between responsibility and pleasure is to misunderstand the nature of both.

    C. S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity that trying to cling to the first infant moments of a pleasure can only exhaust it. “It is simply no good trying to keep any thrill,” he says,

    that is the very worst thing you can do. Let the thrill go – let it die away – go on through that period of death into the quieter interest and happiness that follow – and you will find you are living in a world of new thrills all the time. … It is much better fun to learn to swim than to go on endlessly (and hopelessly) trying to get back the feeling you had when you first went paddling as a small boy.

    He goes on to say that new types of thrills come to those who can let go of the old ones. The man who once experienced the thrill of paddling will discover the first tilthy moment of gardening. And it is true that new horizons will open up if you are open to them. But the more relevant point is the one he references in passing: the fun of learning to swim. The thrill does not merely subside when its infant moments are allowed to die; it deepens. The little girl must not try to endlessly extend the first moment of doggy-paddling, not so that she can drop aquatics in favor of some new hobby, but so that she can become the woman who knows the joy of swimming against a strong sea current under a stormy sky.

    Adult Halloween must, like John Barleycorn, die so that adult Halloween can live: not as a pale imitation of other festivals, but by finding its own distinct nature as the feast of admixture and open doors: children and parent, neighbor and neighbor, light and dark, safe and frightening, home and street, visible and invisible, living and dead, underworld and overworld.

    Adult Halloween must die so the pleasures distinct to adulthood and distinct to Halloween can live. Not the child trick-or-treating anymore: the woman in a black shawl, sitting on her porch, drinking hard cider and listening to the wind in the trees, surrounded by flickering pumpkin light, waiting to dispense candy to the children brave enough to approach. And then, when the children have been unwillingly packed into bed and the lanterns blown out, to have the freedom of the dark town or the quieting city: to hear the owl and see the outline of the crow, to be alone and not alone.

    Tomorrow there will be graveyard visits and All Saints Day Mass and a gentler remembrance of the dead, everything in its place again. Tomorrow life is for the living. But tonight children put on masks to venture out. Adults don’t need them.

    Contributed By ClareCoffey Clare Coffey

    Clare Coffey is a writer living in Idaho.

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