By Elizabeth Tenety
Why do Americans love Halloween?
Halloween, as religion reporters like to remind readers every October 31st, is an ancient celebration with pagan roots.
Christians adapted the Celtic holiday of dressing up in costume to drive out evil spirits before the Nov 1st celebration of ‘All Saints Day.’ Many Latin American cultures also celebrate the Day of the Dead at the same time. The modern adaptation of the holiday is more sugar-filled revelry than religious ritual, but the celebration’s morbid overtones remain intact.
Does America’s embrace of Halloween reflect our fascination with death or our fear of it?
The weeks around Halloween are also when Hollywood decides it is time for moviegoers to ponder their mortality. So if you want to get scared to death this weekend, head to theaters to watch Saw 3D (the only thing better than death by buzz saws must be death by buzz saws -in 3D!), Paranormal Activity 2, or Hereafter, Clint Eastwood’s recent life-after-death drama staring Matt Damon as a medium.
Movies about mortality may appeal to viewers, but they impact the actors, too. In a People interview about Hereafter, Damon said that his meditations on the afterlife affect his life on earth:
“I think what’s important for kids to know is that your decisions here on earth matter, your behavior matters, and how you treat other people matters. It matters here and I’m hoping that it matters in the afterlife, too. It just comes down to accountability for your own behavior that’s important. So whenever I talk to my own kids or whenever they ask, I try and put the hereafter in kind of an ethical framework.”
A Baltimore-based NASA scientist and real life psychic medium Rob Gutro told the Washington Post this week “We’re all at different levels of understanding what life is about and what happens afterward.”
Do you believe in life after death? Why, or why not? How do your beliefs about the afterlife impact your behavior in the here and now?
Read more On Faith about Halloween:
In previous years, On Faith has asked its panelists: “Is Halloween harmless fun, devil worship or a time for spiritual reflection?” What do you think?
For just a taste of the varying opinions on the holiday, check out what Catholic Priest Tom Reese, atheist author Susan Jacoby, Evangelical minister Chuck Colson and Wiccan leader Starhawk have to say.