Thoughts on Black


Is Black a color? I remember being told in elementary school that black, like white, was not a color but rather a “shade”. But as much as that term fills me with delightful thoughts of ghosts and specters, I respectfully disagree. Black is certainly a color and it certainly is the secondary color of Halloween.

The issue that arises when discussing my thoughts on Black as a distinctly Halloween staple is the color’s ubiquitousness. Black is one of the most used colors for clothing and vehicles. It is used in everything and anything where stark contrast is needed. Indeed, the very night itself is typified by the dark, inky blackness expressed by the lack of light. So discussing where Black fits into the paradigm of All Hallow’s Eve we must first define its usage and meaning as “Halloween Black”.

Halloween Black

Is there a “pantone” color for Halloween Black? Not that I am aware of, however, its secondary nature tied to Halloween Orange and its usage throughout the 20th century has cemented Black as a unique part of Halloween decor. In fact, the argument could be made that thanks to the color’s wide use, it can only be understood in relation to other colors. Thus, Halloween Black as a unique expression of the shade can only be truly expressed in relation to Halloween Orange.

So what is Halloween Black really? It is the color of cold Autumn nights and the dancing shadows made by candlelight. It is a dark hall hidden from sun and lamp and it is the color of suspicious cats curled up near the fireplace. Halloween Black is the long night after a short harvest day and the pitch starkness against the bonfire flickering up into the empty heavens. Halloween Black is chaos, disorder, unknown and danger.


Black is Fear

Ultimately, Black’s affiliation with Halloween is a simple one. We are scared of the dark. We are afraid of the bleak night and what it conceals. Our most primordial fear is what we can’t see, what we can’t know. Our ancestors built fires and large halls to stave off the cold and dark which housed all the adversaries to man who desired to destroy all joy and merriment.

Black is the color of Death. Black is the most unnatural of naturally occurring colors. It visage denotes cancerous water and bogs. Black skin characterizes decay and dead flesh; it is emblematic of the lack of those things that bring and sustain life such as oxygen enriched blood. Black in this context reminds us of our mortality and how, with every cold waning of the year, we gather together around the light. We eat the fruits of our labor, the harvest food of the Earth. It is deeply human, deeply intertwined with who we are as creatures. The cold and dangerous Halloween Black perfectly pairs with the warm and inviting Halloween Orange to create the beautiful combination so well represented every thirty-first of October.


Halloween: An Article From 1912

Originally Published In The Evening Star. Newspaper. October 27, 1912.


DO you believe in fairies? Or have you grown beyond the age when you think the goblins will get you if you don’t watch out? It makes no difference how old you may be or how lacking in superstition, you are still interested in those many little beliefs and signs and omens which took up such a large part in your childhood fancy. And you are willing, if only for one day in the year — Halloween — to conjure up childish memories and either to join in or encourage the old fashioned idea of celebrating this hallowed evening?

Thursday evening next, October 31, fun and frolic will again hold sway among a very big percentage of all youngsters, especially those of the English speaking countries, as well as among a good number of their elders, for Halloween, or All Halloween, as it is sometimes known, will be observed with all its characteristics, wild outbursts of youthful deviltry and merrymaking.

Present Observations

Halloween, as observed at the present time, is regarded by most people as a day primarily intended for the urchin. It is true that grown-ups do not engage as enthusiastically in the day’s celebration as the younger element, yet it was not always so. Queen Victoria once assisted in a Halloween festival at Balmoral Castle, where a fire was built and effigies of goblins and witches were burned, and we have written record of the day as celebrated by various English kings and Scottish chiefs with religious ceremonies similar to our Halloween or All Saints’ day of November.

Halloween derives its name from its being the vigil of All Saints’ day. The Druids, away back before the birth of Christ, set apart October 31 as a night for the extinguishment of all fires and the rekindling of new ones. All the supernatural beings of the visible and invisible world were supposed to gather on this night and hold high revel in the sphere of humanity, and the fires were rewarded as charms against these spirits. “Witches’ night” and “Devils’ Sunday” were the common terms used by the pagan folks [no, it was not]. As late as the seventeenth century the farmers in Brittany carried lighted torches about their fields to protect themselves from the evil forces of the coming year [to protect their fields from blight and insects]. So it is seen that Halloween, which was at first purely a pagan custom of the Druids, has become a period about which mystery has clung so fixedly that it still remains a day of special celebration.

Irish, Scotch, and Welsh

Halloween is most widely observed by the Irish, Scotch and Welsh. In Scotland any child born on the eve of October 31 is supposed to be endowed with a mysterious faculty of holding communion while sleeping with the invisible world. In north Wales the peasantry cast stones into a great fire, and after covering them up with ashes retire to rest. The next morning the ashes are swept aside and the stones sought, and woe betide those who do not find their stones. Their future life, it is supposed, will be very uncertain.

Upon some of the Channel Islands the fisherfolk choose Halloween to propitiate a sea god whom they know as “Shony.” At night they gather at the seacoast, brew ale and consign it to the waves, meanwhile repeating the words: “Shony, I give you this cup of ale, hoping you will be so kind as to send us plenty of seaward to enrich our land the coming year.” Afterward they return to a church and offer prayer to God, following which revelry of all kinds is participated in. In sections of Ireland Halloween is kept in all its entireties. Burns has ludicrously embodied the customs of the Irish in his poem “Halloween,” in which the general good fellowship, nut roasting, apple ducking, dumb cake ceremony and candle singeing are quaintly described.

Dumb Cake

The dumb cake ceremony is a common custom in Ireland on Halloween night. A piece of cake is kneaded with the left thumb in absolute silence. If the lips are even slightly moved the charm will be broken. However, if nothing is said presently there will appear the future husband of the faithful lass. Another prevalent custom has to do with molten lead, which is cast into cold spring water. The fanciful shapes resulting denote the kind of husband a girl will get. For instance, if the lead takes the appearance of a dragon the resemblance is at once compared, and the eager girl is told of the result.

“Now bring forth the lead and melt it down quickly,
There is no knowing what is in store for you yet;
Here, Harry, run out for a key of the gateway,
And, Betty, a bowl of fresh water get.
So hold the key over and through the wards pour,
Until the lead runs down like meal through a sieve;
Remember, remember, on nutty November,
The charm is completed at gay Halloweve.”

Cabbage stalks are often used as a means of telling fortunes. A little verse relating “Murtagh’s Evil” is usually chanted before the cabbages are chosen. It runs:

“One, two, three and up to seven,
If all are white all go to heaven;
If one is black as “Murtagh’s Evil,”
He’ll soon be screeching with the devil.”

“Murtagh’s Evil” is likely a very black crime, in view of the fact that it is placed in the verse so connectedly with the devil’s name.


Burns has inimitable described, in “Halloween,” the various superstitious practices of the Irish peasantry of his time, and especially interesting are the ones known as “Kaling,” “Toomdish,” “Sarksleeve” and “Hempseed.” In the Kaling procedure blindfolded persons of all one sex go out into the fields and after pulling up the first stalks they touch tell the size, appearance and character of their future mates by the size, straightness and crookedness of their stalks. The dirt clinging to the stock denotes the dowry or fortune, and the taste of the pith the temper of the husband or wife-to-be. They are then put one after another over the door and the names of the persons in the succession of their entrance through it are the same as the names of the mate of the holder of that particular stalk.

In the “Toomdish” or “Luggies,” three dishes, one filled with clean water, another with dirty water and the third with no water, are placed on a table in a row. A blindfolded person then dips his head into the first dish he touches, and if he succeeds in locating the clean water his wife will have been unmarried, if he touches the dirty water his wife will have been a widow, and if he plunges his hand into the empty dish he will remain a bachelor.

The “Sarksleeve” method consisted of dipping the left shirt sleeve in a stream at nighttime. Then upon going to bed in sight of a fire, the shirt sleeve being hung up to dry, at midnight the future partner in life of the owner of the shirt glides up and turns the sleeve from the left side over to the right to dry. Needless to say there have been many weird and interesting stories due in most part to the “barley brue” with which the swain had screwed up his courage. The “Hempseed” superstition as described by Burns lies in the sowing of a handful of hempseed at night, and then harrowing with anything conveniently drawn, and afterward repeating a prayer. The apparition being summoned duly appears upon one’s looking over one’s shoulder.

German, Celtic, and Latin

Although Halloween by the Teutonic and Celtic peoples was observed in fun making and frolic, to the Latin peoples it is a religious vigil. All Saints’ day on November 1 is universally a Catholic festival. It had its origin in the year 610 A.D., when the old Roman temple, Pantheon, that had hitherto been dedicated to the pagan gods, was consecrated to the worship of the Virgin Mary and the martyrs. The reason for fixing the day on November 1 was to supplant pagan observances of Halloween. Eventually pagan and Christian customs blended and consequently the right of the Druids became intermingled with various of the Christian observances, and thereupon instead of “Witches’ night,” “Devil’s Sunday,” “Nutcrack Night” or “Walpurgis Night,” the designation All Halloween or Halloween from All Saints’ day was generally used.

In Germany the Walpurgis night was in the most par closely allied to Halloween, for upon this night, the eve of May 1, fires were built on the summit of the Brocken in the Harz mountains with the same object in view as that of the Celtic peasantry — to drive away the evil spirits. Nutcrack night, as Halloween is sometimes called, originated from the festival held in honor of Pomona, goddess of orchards. Roman boys in Horace’s time participated in sports in which nuts figured, and there was also religious use made of them, so that the probable origin of the conspicuous part played by nuts in the Halloween customs of the present day dates back to Rome in the early centuries.


Apples also play a prominent part in all Halloween celebrations, and the reason is found in the observance long, long ago if the day called “La Mas Ubhalt,” November 1, which was dedicated to the angel presiding over fruits and seeds. The pronunciation, which was Lamasool, became corrupted into Lamb’s wool, which term was applied to a Halloween beverage in Ireland made of roasted apples, liquor and milk. This drink seems to have been the first apple toddy — at least it was not much different from the apple toddy of today. The most prominent part played by apples in Halloween gatherings today is in Ireland, where every child on Halloween day sends an apple to the Allen market at St. Ives, but all over the world, wherever Halloween is celebrated, lads and maidens bob for apples, roast the delicious fruit and eat it before a looking glass in order to conjure up the inquirer’s future mate. Burns thus writes of a small girl:

Wee Jennie to her granny says:
“Will you go with me, granny?
I’ll eat the apple at the glass,
I got from Uncle Johnny.”

Death Makes A Holiday Part I: Celebrating Death?


“The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no more reward, and even the memory of them is lost. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished; never again will they have any share in all that happens under the sun. Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do. Let your garments always be white; do not let oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that are given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5-9)
* * *

In February of 2018 my grandfather died at 77 years old. He was stubborn, sarcastic, and a short-fuse of a man. He smoked and was a farmer. He was a good man and was terribly rough around the edges. He lived a life similar to the many other lives around him, and just like them, the extent of his influence over those still living cannot be measured. Before he died my grandfather requested I do his funeral. It was an honor, and it was very difficult.

I was acquainted with death at a young age. The amount of funerals I attended as a child outnumbered weddings, friend’s birthdays, or any other non-annual celebration. Seeing my great-grandfather in his casket is one of my earliest memories. Burying a dead bird my friend and I found before I was old enough to go to school is still vivid in my mind. Losing pets was a reality that many children experience too. I knew at a young age that things die.

Death comes quick, and death comes slow, but it always comes and we are always surprised by its sting and its hurt. We feel betrayed by life and we feel left behind or even worse we lament, terribly, that time was not better spent with the deceased. Death is a powerful motivator and it has held a sacred spot in the collective human psyche and in human memory. We fear Death and we fear the dead, but we also honor and consecrate that terrifying reality.

Halloween, in many of its forms and historical iterations, is a celebration of Death. The deceased lie at the center of Halloween’s continued cultural march towards change. Death shows itself in the ever prevalent Jack o’ Lanterns and ghosts. Halloween is about Death and dying. It gives us a way to look at our mortality and laugh and make a gaudy celebration out of it. Death reaches back into time and space, back into our primordial history and ties our past to our present and our future. Death is as much a part of the human experience as Life.

And here lies the crux of accepting Death. As a Christian and a pastor I often speak on the “defeat of Sin and Death”. I must here make the distinction between spiritual, or eternal, Death and the primal or ancient concept of Death and dying Halloween beautifully holds as the central gem of its skeletal crown.

I often get weird looks or comments when fellow Christians discover my love of Halloween. They don’t understand how to reconcile a Christian walk with the macabre expression and love for Halloween. To many, Death is the enemy. Certainly, the Death described in scripture is the spiritual separation of the eternal aspect of man, of the soul, and the eternal creative and sustaining force that is God. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(1 Corinthians 15:54-57)

No, rather, a Christian should greet physical Death as a friend. That doesn’t change how scary physical death and dying can be, as attested by the PsalmistMy heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.” (Psalm 55:4-5) The fear of Death has always been the great motivator for men and women to do terrible, evil things. Much like the old adage (a corruption of the biblical viewpoint) “Money is the root of all evil”, the idea that focusing on Death and dying is morbid, evil, or even demonic is a great error. It is not the inevitable Death of a person that drives them to Sin, but rather the fear of it, as much as the love of money causes humanity to wreak horrors on their neighbors. 

And even for those irreligious, non-religious or otherwise non-Christian lovers of Halloween, accepting their doom should become a beautiful and freeing thing. My hope, of course, is that it be coupled with a relationship with the one who frees you from eternal Death (the bad kind!).

My grandfather accepted his death to cancer. He also sought after God, and found the Redeemer in his last days. It seemed to comfort him, from all outside appearances. I knew in my heart that he had accepted his Death, but he had accepted so much more as well.

This blog entry is the first in a few focused on Halloween and its connection to Death. I hope it guides many to a different view on dying, and a different view on my beloved holiday.

Halloween: An Orthodox Christian Perspective



Originally Published By
John Sanidopoulos at Daimonologia

One of America’s most beloved and fastest growing holidays is Halloween, and it is also the most demonized. Many of all ages, both young and old, celebrate it with innocence and a smile, yet some also condemn it with fury as an evil and violent day. The majority see Halloween as a fun children’s holiday on which they dress up in costumes and go door to door to get candy, while others view it as a remnant of paganism and a subtle celebration of satanism. Amid this confusion and dichotomy, I will attempt to set the record straight in a short yet concise manner based on the most up-to-date studies, and examine whether or not the Church is called to demonize or sanctify Halloween based on the truth.

After many years of research, observation and participation in this holiday, if I were to give the simplest and most accurate one-sentence summary for the history of Halloween, it would be this:

Halloween originated as a medieval Christian celebration that was part of the Triduum of All Hallows, or Hallowmas (All Hallows Eve, All Hallows Day and All Souls Day lasting from October 31 – November 2), and in the 19th and 20th centuries it acquired Western European and North American cultural traditions that established it as an annual celebration of these societies.

Hence, from this summary we learn of Halloween’s Christian origins and its evolution as an annual cultural celebration. What we don’t learn from this summary is the negative perspective of the holiday, which demonizes it and condemns it as pagan and satanic. The reason for this is that from a Christian perspective, there is no reason to demonize it nor condemn it as a pagan or satanic holiday.

Halloween’s History

If we were to trace the origins of Halloween to one specific event in history, it would be when Pope Gregory III (731-741) dedicated an oratory in the original Saint Peter’s Basilica of Rome in honor of all the Saints on November 1st, which initiated a local Roman custom to celebrate the feast of All Saints on November 1st. Before this time the feast of All Saints, also known as All Hallows, was celebrated throughout the Christian world since the fourth century to mainly commemorate all the Martyrs either in April or May, including Ireland. The Franks then the English were the first to follow Rome in celebrating the feast of All Saints on November 1st, and this became official under Pope Gregory VII in the early ninth century. The word “Halloween” merely refers to October 31st being the day of All Hallows Eve, and later November 2nd also became part of the Triduum with the commemoration of All Souls Day on which prayers and philanthropic acts were done on behalf of the dead, which was also part of established Christian tradition since the early centuries.

This may come as a shock to some who believe the myth that Halloween has its origins or is associated with paganism or satanism. The truth is that Halloween never was and never has been associated with paganism or satanism, though some pagans and satanists may embrace it as part of the melting pot we call America. Instead what we find is that the Church established Hallowmas as original holy days, not to sanctify an old pagan celebration among the Celts as has been popularly and falsely believed, but to celebrate an already well-established feast dedicated to all the Saints.

Up until the 19th century, Halloween in Western Europe and America was a firmly Roman Catholic feast day that acquired and developed various cultural traditions, as all major holidays did at the time and still do. The mythology that Halloween had pagan origins prior to Christian times arose for the first time in the 19th century among Celtic scholars, who had their own personal agendas in falsifying history. They came up with the idea that October 31-November 2 were days when pagan Celtic peoples celebrated a feast of the dead known as Samhain, even though there is no historical record of such a feast among the ancient Celts. How did they come up with this? It was believed at the time that Christian feast days, such as Christmas and Easter, had pagan origins, and that the Church merely Christianized established pagan celebrations to win over converts. The way the Celtic scholars explained the origins for the feast of All Saints, which was popular among the Irish of the 19th century, was by tracing it back to the ancient Celts, without historical precedence. Though these false ideas are still popularly believed today, any honest historian can easily spot the agenda in these falsifications of history, and they have been firmly discredited.


What about the connection with satanism? This first entered the popular American imagination in the 1960’s through urban mythology created by conservative fundamentalist Christians. These fundamentalist Protestants, already opposed to the Roman Catholic feast of All Saints, sought to demonize the holiday by basing their research on 19th century Celtic scholars. Through them Samhain became a pagan god, an alternative name for Satan, and that practices like trick or treating were originally established out of fear to appease dead spirits, which were really demons. They would hysterically say: “Those who oppose Christ are known to organize on Halloween to observe satanic rituals, to cast spells, to oppose churches and families, to perform sacrilegious acts, and to even offer blood sacrifices to Satan.” It didn’t help at the time that through Hollywood, 19th century monsters like Dracula and Frankenstein from Gothic literature were gaining in popularity and they became established costumes for children.

In the late 1960’s Anton LaVey, the founder of existential Satanism and the Church of Satan in San Francisco, took advantage of this urban myth among fundamentalist Christians, whom he most wanted to provoke, and established Halloween as one of the three major holidays of the Church of Satan (along with the Satanist’s own birthday, since LaVeyan Satanism is atheistic and about worship of one’s self, and Walpurgisnacht on April 30, which was also promoted among fundamentalists as a “witch holiday”). This marketing maneuver by Anton LaVey was taken seriously by fundamentalists, who already feared the holiday, and fundamentalists began to take advantage of this new connection by eventually creating what has been called the “Satanic Panic” of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Urban myths about Halloween grew during this time to scare people away from celebrating Halloween, such as making up stories of crazed adults who sought to harm innocent trick or treaters by planting poison or razor blades in children’s candy, and how pumpkins were carved to depict the facial expressions of the damned in hell. This fundamentalist literature, most popularly identified with people like Jack Chick, soon became the established opinion of just about every Christian Church in America, even among Roman Catholics who still celebrate Hallowmas between October 31 and November 2.

Since the days of the so-called Satanic Panic, Christians have generally viewed Halloween as pagan and satanic. What this has done is basically handed over the holiday to take on more of a pagan and satanic character, which it did not generally have prior to this time. This is an unfortunate lesson in what happens when the Church demonizes rather than sanctifies. Christians opened the door to the devil, and the devil has taken every advantage.

Christians can continue to associate Halloween with paganism and satanism if one’s perspective of the holiday is to demonize it in such a way, or if they choose to limit their observations to certain disagreeable elements that certain people may take advantage of on Halloween, but essentially Halloween is not pagan or satanic unless one chooses to make it so. Unfortunately this myth continues to be perpetuated by many leaders of the Church, choosing against the narrow way of researching the truth and transforming our cultural heritage for the easier path of egotistical condemnation which only extends the kingdom of the devil.

As mentioned earlier, many have tried to similarly paganize Christmas and Easter as well, creating a mythology that their origins are pagan and thus anti-christian. At the forefront of such movements are Neo-pagans and Protestant fundamentalists. They not only base this on the supposed origins of the holiday, but make observations of their modern secular celebration as being essentially pagan in nature, which is also largely a false myth. This iconoclastic attitude of fundamentalists creates mythology to provide a basis for the demonization of something that need not be demonized, and they base this on an inapplicable condemnation from Holy Scripture, and some even dare cite the Holy Fathers. In the past this used to be called a “hysteria”, popularly associated with the Inquisition and witch hunts. Some people are not satisfied with the saying of the Apostle Paul, that our enemies are not flesh and blood, but invisible enemies. Moralistic Christians segregate themselves from people or things they choose to associate with evil, instead of embracing all people and transforming rather than condemning. Hysteria dictates that it is easier to demonize something we can see and to fight against that, rather than to fight against our internal temptations and passions and transform ourselves.

Modern, American Holiday

While religious holidays in America tend to be personal or family holidays that are embraced at best by a small specific community, Halloween is one of few days open to the entire community, and its secular cultural purpose is meant to show good will among neighbors. The reason for this is because in the early 20th century, Halloween was still very much a Christian holiday, but it also became a day in which the melting pot of cultural traditions gathered to form a national family secular holiday. In the European Late Middle Ages it was a custom at Christmas and on All Souls Day for poor children to go door to door and beg for money and food. In 1605 Guy Fawkes’ abortive effort to blow up the British Parliament on November 5th led to the creation of Guy Fawkes Day, which became associated with mischief and violence. In mid-19th century New York poor children called “ragamuffins” combined these two traditions and began dressing up in costumes and begging for pennies on Thanksgiving Day. A tradition of vandalism among youthful boys began to spread throughout the country at this time, and with urbanization and poverty on the rise in the early 20th century, communities came to realize they needed to contain the violence and vandalism. It was decided at this time, beginning in the 1920’s and throughout the 1930’s, to make Halloween a secular family celebration of good will.

In the 1920’s and 1930’s, as Halloween became a secular celebration, it had little difference with Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July. People would gather in the town square and take part in a parade and play various games. Halloween also had some Victorian elements that were popular at the time, such as divination and spiritualism, which almost everyone throughout America, Europe and Russia experimented with at the time throughout the year, even respected Orthodox Christians like Dostoevsky. Slowly also the traditional British ghost story of Christmas Eve told before a fire, the most popular of which was Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, slowly transferred to Halloween. The plan seemed to work to change the autumn season from a time of vandalism and violence among youth, to a time of family, fun and games. In the late 1930’s traditions such as trick or treating were established to ensure children would behave by being rewarded by neighbors with treats by dressing up in costumes and showing good behavior, rather than being mischievous tricksters who brought harm to the neighborhood. It was a clever distraction. With the rise in popularity and creativity of Comic Books and Horror Movies, these elements also became part of the costuming of children and adults alike. These elements also helped associate Halloween throughout the rest of the 20th century as a time of the macabre, though much less harmful than it was in the late 19th and early 20th century with the rise of violence and vandalism at that time. Only small elements of such mischievousness has survived in our times.

Based on all this information, what should be the response of the Church today? Do we continue to demonize this holiday by way of influence from fundamentalist Protestants and Neo-pagans, or do we separate the agreeable and disagreeable elements, the honey and the hemlock, and allow it to be as it is? Like every holiday in America, Halloween certainly has many disagreeable elements, but is this enough justification to prevent children from dressing up in a costume and having innocent childish fun? I leave this up to the reader to decide based on an educated opinion of the facts. Just keep in mind the famous saying of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”

My personal suggestion is for the Church in America to embrace Halloween as much as is permissible, like any other holiday. There are no rules how to celebrate Halloween, so any disagreeable element can be ruled out. One need not go to a psychic on Halloween or participate in any pagan ceremony. It is not a rule to take on a persona of evil or become over-sexualized, or to vandalize and attend drunken parties to have fun on Halloween. Halloween is about expressing one’s self in whatever way one chooses, and costumes have come to reflect this. Christians, young and old alike, are not compelled to do what they don’t want to do on Halloween if they want to have some participation in it. It is alright for Christians to go trick or treating and give out candy on Halloween, because such practices have no evil element. In fact, I would argue that it entirely falls in line with the Christian attitude of showing neighborly love and hospitality. All Christian homes should turn on their lights and welcome their neighbor’s children on Halloween, and even more so should Christian churches. I’ve often thought that the darkest element of Halloween are those homes and churches that refuse to turn their lights on for trick or treaters. There is no need to hand out icons and have children light candles before icons to sanctify the holiday, because this is not only giving in to an element of fear, but it also can be perceived as rude by non-Orthodox Christians.

Halloween Horror?

What about the macabre element of Halloween today? The macabre element of Halloween, like many apparently disagreeable and dark elements of all holidays, is really just a matter of perspective and attitude. First of all, the macabre is a natural element of the autumn season. Not only are the nights getting longer, but the weather is getting colder and the trees are stripped bare of their leaves. The colors and fragrances of death surround the atmosphere, and all we tend to see are cloudy days with lots of oranges, browns and blacks. Secondly, Gothic fiction arose in the 18th and 19th century based on the stories surrounding medieval architecture and art, as well as old superstitions and tales. Horror stories from that time on have always had an atmospheric element that appeals to one’s artistic sensibilities combined with imaginative fears. For people who enjoy horror stories and movies, this artistic and atmospheric element is realized tangibly at Halloween time not only through costumes, but in popular culture and especially the ever-popular haunted houses. These things are not created merely to scare people, but are more like museums of the macabre imagination based on old tales and fears. If these things are only created to scare without the artistic element, then they usually fail their purpose. Modern Halloween is basically defined by these two natural and fictional elements.

St. Photios the Great, in his Myriobiblion, reviews a fiction story he read, in which he concludes the following regarding fiction stories: “In the story, particularly, as in fabulous fictions of the same kind, there are two considerations most useful to notice. The first is that they show that evildoers, even if they seem to escape a thousand times, always get their punishment; the second, that they show many innocents placed in great danger often saved against all hope.” The fictional stories told around Halloween, the great majority of the time, contain these same elements St. Photios praises in his review. This is most especially evident in old Gothic tales, such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and even found quite often in modern horror fiction and movies.

To offer a different perspective of horror fiction, below are a few of many quotes by noted creators of horror, the sensational and the macabre, both in literature and film, that show that horror fiction is more about ourselves and our response to negative realities than just creating the element of fear for fear’s sake:

The famous horror director Guillermo del Toro says: “Monsters are living, breathing metaphors.” Horror stories, like most fiction, are usually metaphors for something deeper that teaches us about ourselves, our environment or our situations of either the past, present or future.

Noted horror author Stephen King has famously written: “Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.” He also wrote in his masterful survey of horror, Danse Macabre, that, “Traditional Horror has a morality that would make a Puritan preacher smile.”

Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote to a friend something similar about his story that is full of metaphors: “Jekyll is a dreadful thing, I own, but the only thing I feel dreadful about is this damned old business of the war in the members. This time it came out; I hope it will stay in, in future.” The war against innate evil, says Stevenson, is more dreadful than his tale of horror.

George Romero, the director of the highly metaphorical Night of the Living Dead and the creator of the modern Zombie phenomenon, has commented: “I also have always liked the monster within idea. I like the zombies being us. Zombies are the blue-collar monsters.”

The great silent horror actor Lon Chaney once said of the roles he played: “I wanted to remind people that the lowest types of humanity may have within them the capacity for supreme self-sacrifice. The dwarfed, misshapen beggar of the streets may have the noblest ideals. Most of my roles since The Hunchback of Notre Dame, such as The Phantom of the Opera, He Who Gets Slapped, The Unholy Three, etc., have carried the theme of self-sacrifice or renunciation. These are the stories which I wish to do.”

Tragedy often gives birth to horror, but it cannot be denied that the most horrible elements are what we carry within ourselves. As Oscar Wilde wrote in his tale The Picture of Dorian Gray: “The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.”

G.K. Chesterton defended the sensational novel as his favorite form of fictional tale, and in his essay “Fiction as Food” he wrote: “High or low, good or bad, clever or stupid, a moral story almost always meant a murderous story. For the old Greeks a moral play was one full of madness and slaying. For the great medievals a moral play was one which exhibited the dancing of the devil and the open jaws of hell. For the great Protestant moralists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries a moral story meant a story in which a parricide was struck by lightning or a boy was drowned for fishing on a Sunday. For the more rationalistic moralists of the eighteenth century, such as Hogarth, Richardson, and the author of Sandford and Merton, all agreed that shocking calamities could properly be indicated as the result of evil doing; that the more shocking those calamities were the more moral they were. It is only in our exhausted and agnostic age that the idea has been started that if one is moral one must not be melodramatic.”

Southern writer Flannery O’Connor once wrote that to reach the deaf sometimes you have to shout.  Many horror and supernatural tales have the ability to shake us out of our materialistic and naturalistic stupor to help us look deeper within ourselves as well as what is beyond ourselves. The spiritual life revolves around how we respond to temptations and trials of all kinds, and horror and supernatural tales often compel us to think what our response would be in the face of evil, temptation and suffering.

To conclude, Halloween is what we decide to make of it. Our decision is based on how we wish to perceive it and interpret it. This in itself is essentially a celebration of Halloween.

Some Thoughts on Orange


I typically don’t like orange. I don’t own an orange shirt, I don’t like orange appliances or decor. Heck, I live in a State whose heritage includes “Big Orange” as a part of their athletic identity and I still don’t like it. I grew up loving the cooler colors of nature, blues and greens, the soft subdued and soothing hues of a beautiful Spring evening. Orange, for me, was angry, hot, dangerous, unwelcoming, and bright. Not aspects that I desired to associate myself as a child.

At the same time, I loved Halloween. I loved hauling out the sometimes musty decorations out of the shed and dusting off old blow molds and costumes. Many of which were blazing orange. So how on earth do I reconcile my affinity and love for the orange of Halloween, and my distaste for the uncomfortable and irritating orange of everyday life?

Halloween Orange

There certainly is a difference between, say, Tennessee Orange and Halloween Orange. For one, and it may seem simple enough, they represent completely different things. The University of Tennessee’s distinctive orange tone comes from the orange and white daisies on the campus, which inspired the 1889 athletics association president to adopt it’s warm and vibrant color for the department.1 That orange reminds me of hot summer football and “good-ole” boys. That orange serves the purpose of camaraderie and group identity.

Halloween orange is something else entirely.

The orange that has become so distinctive to the Halloween season represents a number of things including pumpkins and other harvest vegetables, fire, and the turning leaves. Halloween orange is warm, yes, but inviting. It promises good food and good fortune. This orange is approachable and positive.

Beistle and Dennison

Vintage Halloween Clip Art Free 20.pngWhat then popularized the orange that is so often synonymous with Halloween? Mostly, the company’s “Beistle” and “Dennison” are to blame for that. Over the past 100 years, Beistle has created affordable holiday decoration and toys for the world to enjoy. Beistle, die cut manufacturer out of Pennsylvania, has created “over 1000 different designs and decorations” that  “have been added since 1921 ranging from witches, black cats, bats, owls, spiders and jack o lanterns. The company produced many popular die cut Halloween paper items and helped popularize Halloween decoration in America.” 2

Dennison is a die cast holiday manufacturer in Massachusetts. Like Beistle, they too are responsible for the early 20th century’s vision of Halloween. Dennison made their share of decorations, but they are best known for their line of Halloween catalogs called “Bogie Books”. The first bogie book was released in 1909, and continued almost yearly on into the 1930s.3 These magazines, like Beistle and Dennison’s die cut decorations, helped establish the look, and for our purposes here, color of the season. They included advertisements for paper costumes and decorations, halloween party ideas and games, as well as a guiding force in the trends for the Halloween season.

Today’s Nostalgia

Halloween adopted the early 1900s color of orange as a part of itself. Never would a Halloween again go by without its warm, eerie glow. But for me, Halloween orange is best summed up by a slow, cool Autumn sunset. The sky is ablaze in orange, yet the coming night air feels refreshing. The hard day is winding down and the promise of quiet and darkness soothes the mind and refreshes the soul. Halloween orange remains, still, an otherworldly glow of nostalgia, nature, and fun.

When Halloween Was All Tricks and No Treats

Article originally published 2017, Smithsonian by Lesley Bannatyne

Teens used to terrorize smaller children on Halloween.
A 1908 postcard depicts Halloween mischief. (Image courtesy of The New York Public Library Digital Collections)

Imagine. Pre-electricity, no moon. It’s late October, and the people whisper: This is the season for witchery, the night the spirits of the dead rise from their graves and hover behind the hedges.

The wind kicks up, and branches click like skeletal finger bones. You make it home, run inside, wedge a chair against the door, and strain to listen. There’s a sharp rap at the window and when you turn, terrified, it’s there leering at you—a glowing, disembodied head with a deep black hole where its mouth should be.

It’s just a scooped-out pumpkin, nicked from a field by some local boys and lit from the inside with the stub of a candle. But it has spooked you. When you look again, it’s gone.

Halloween in early 19th-century America was a night for pranks, tricks, illusions, and anarchy. Jack-o’-lanterns dangled from the ends of sticks, and teens jumped out from behind walls to terrorize smaller kids. Like the pumpkin patches and pageants that kids love today, it was all in good fun—but then, over time, it wasn’t.

As America modernized and urbanized, mischief turned to mayhem and eventually incited a movement to quell what the mid-20th-century press called the “Halloween problem”—and to make the holiday a safer diversion for youngsters. If it weren’t for the tricks of the past, there’d be no treats today.

Halloween was born nearly 2,000 years ago in the Celtic countries of northwestern Europe. November 1 was the right time for it—the date cut the agricultural year in two. It was Samhain, summer’s end, the beginning of the dangerous season of darkness and cold—which according to folklore, created a rift in reality that set spirits free, both good and bad. Those spirits were to blame for the creepy things—people lost in fairy mounds, dangerous creatures that emerged from the mist—that happened at that time of year.

Immigrants from Ireland and Scotland brought their Halloween superstitions to America in the 18th and 19th centuries, and their youngsters—our great- and great-great grandfathers—became the first American masterminds of mischief. Kids strung ropes across sidewalks to trip people in the dark, tied the doorknobs of opposing apartments together, mowed down shrubs, upset swill barrels, rattled or soaped windows, and, once, filled the streets of Catalina Island with boats. Pranksters coated chapel seats with molasses in 1887, exploded pipe bombs for kicks in 1888, and smeared the walls of new houses with black paint in 1891. Two hundred boys in Washington, D.C., used bags of flour to attack well-dressed folks on streetcars in 1894.

Teens used to terrorize smaller children on Halloween.
Teens used to terrorize smaller children on Halloween. (Image courtesy of The New York Public Library)

In this era, when Americans generally lived in small communities and better knew their neighbors, it was often the local grouch who was the brunt of Halloween mischief. The children would cause trouble and the adults would just smile guiltily to themselves, amused by rocking chairs engineered onto rooftops, or pigs set free from sties. But when early 20th-century Americans moved into crowded urban centers—full of big city problems like poverty, segregation, and unemployment—pranking took on a new edge. Kids pulled fire alarms, threw bricks through shop windows, and painted obscenities on the principal’s home. They struck out blindly against property owners, adults, and authority in general. They begged for money or sweets, and threatened vandalism if they didn’t receive them.

Some grown-ups began to fight back. Newspapers in the early 20th century reported incidents of homeowners firing buckshot at pranksters who were only 11 or 12 years old. “Letting the air out of tires isn’t fun anymore,” wrote the Superintendent of Schools of Rochester, New York in a newspaper editorial in 1942, as U.S. participation in World War II was escalating. “It’s sabotage. Soaping windows isn’t fun this year. Your government needs soaps and greases for the war … Even ringing doorbells has lost its appeal because it may mean disturbing the sleep of a tired war worker who needs his rest.” That same year, the Chicago City Council voted to abolish Halloween and instead institute a “Conservation Day” on October 31. (Implementation got kicked to the mayor, who doesn’t appear to have done much about it.)

The effort to restrain and recast the holiday continued after World War II, as adults moved Halloween celebrations indoors and away from destructive tricks, and gave the holiday over to younger and younger children. The Senate Judiciary Committee under President Truman recommended Halloween be repurposed as “Youth Honor Day” in 1950, hoping that communities would celebrate and cultivate the moral fiber of children. The House of Representatives, sidetracked by the Korean War, neglected to act on the motion, but there were communities that took it up: On October 31, 1955 in Ocala, Florida, a Youth Honor Day king and queen were crowned at a massive party sponsored by the local Moose Lodge. As late as 1962, New York City Mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr. wanted to change Halloween to UNICEF Day, to shift the emphasis of the night to charity.

Of course, the real solution was already gaining in practice by that time. Since there were children already out demanding sweets or money, why not turn it into it a constructive tradition? Teach them how to politely ask for sweets from neighbors, and urge adults to have treats at the ready. The first magazine articles detailing “trick or treat” in the United States appeared in The American Home in the late 1930s. Radio programs aimed at children, such as The Baby Snooks Show, and TV shows aimed at families, like The Jack Benny Program, put the idea of trick-or-treating in front of a national audience. The 1952 Donald Duck cartoon Trick or Treat reached millions via movie screens and TV. It featured the antics of Huey, Dewey, and Louie, who, with the help of Witch Hazel’s potions, get Uncle Donald to give them candy instead of the explosives he first pops into their treat bags.

The transition could be slow. On one episode of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, costumed kids come to the door, and Ozzie and Harriet are baffled. But food companies—Beatrice Foods, Borden, National Biscuit Company—quickly took notice and got into the candy business, and even tobacco companies like Philip Morris jumped in. Halloween candy and costume profits hit $300 million in 1965 and kept rising. Trick-or-treating—child-oriented and ideal for the emerging suburbs that housed a generation of Baby Boomers—became synonymous with Halloween. Reckless behavior was muted, and porch lights welcomed costumed kids coast to coast.

Today, trick or treat has more variants: trunk or treat, where kids go car-to-car in a parking lot asking for candy; and trick or treat for UNICEF, where youngsters collect money for charity along with their treats. Few children, especially young ones, have an inkling of what mischief was once possible.

For those nostalgic about the old days of Halloween mischief, all is not lost. Query the MIT police about the dissected-and-reassembled police car placed atop the Great Dome on the college’s Cambridge campus in 1994. Or ask the New York City pranksters who decorated a Lexington Avenue subway car as a haunted house in 2008. There’s even an annual Naked Pumpkin Run in Boulder, Colorado.

The modern Halloween prank—be it spectacle, internet joke, entertainment, or clever subversion—is a treat in disguise, an offering that’s usually as much fun for the tricked as it is for the trickster. Halloween is still seen as a day to cause mischief, to mock authority, and make the haves give to the have-nots—or at least shine a light on the fact that they should. For that, Americans can thank the long line of pranksters who came before us.

The Order of The Thinned Veil


March of 2017 introduced the world to The Order of The Thinned Veil. The brainchild of artists Jason McKittrick and Sam Heimer. The Order of The Thinned Veil is, per their website:

“…a society of like-minded individuals who choose to live our lives steeped in the legends, lore and customs of Halloween. What does that mean? Well, for us Halloween is anything but just a day in October, it is a lifestyle and a lens by which we view the world around us.”

Membership over the past year has been instrumental in my resolution to rediscover Halloween. Through a tiered system of art, contests and events, The Order allows for its members to celebrate and hold dear the emotions, interests and everything Halloween by receiving staggered shipments of sculptures, drawings and stories. Not only that, but members participate in their own ceremonial planting of pumpkin seeds (for Jack-o-Lanterns of course).

The Order of The Thinned Veil has been a very fun experience thus far, and I encourage anyone who loves Halloween to sign up for the 2018 membership. Jason and Sam have even added a more introductory membership package called the “Pumpkin Patch” tier for those unsure about making the plunge.

Sign up at: 

Why Halloween


The few months back I was searching through an old rugged shed my family owned filled with unwanted junk. Boxes of VHS tapes, toys, home decor and most importantly, holiday decorations. Beneath the the cobwebs and dust were blow molds of Mary and baby Jesus. In water stained boxes were House of Lloyd and Avon Christmas decorations from my childhood, but none of this was the treasure I sought. In the back of the shed was a large grey and plastic tote with the words “Halloween” emblazoned in magic marker.

I am a sucker for nostalgia, its just something I have had to accept the closer I get to 30. What brought me joy as a child and teenager are still things that, to one degree or more, brings me happiness. The funny thing about nostalgia is that it can be so subtle you don’t realize its the reason behind why you love something. And thats not a bad thing.

Halloween has always been nostalgic for me, but it only took the past year or so for me to become aware of that. Perhaps its because my wife and I bought my old house, the one I grew up in. Whatever the reason for the awareness, the orange and black of Halloween has etched itself deep into my mind. The costumes, the music, the jack-o-lanterns and of course the decorations, which brings me back to the shed.

As I opened the hallowed chest of my childhood, floods of memories of Octobers past came over me. Nights trick-or-treating in different parts of town, the occasional Halloween party, the carving, the costumes, it all hit me. I began to pull out skulls and paper mache pumpkins, orange lights and Beistle paper decorations abound! Nostalgia is worse than endorphins.

Nostalgia may have been the gateway drug into the realm of ghouls and ghosts, but there certainly is more to it. I have always had an affinity for the supernatural, dark, and mysterious. I have always loved Horror films since I was a young, and frightened, child. I always appreciated the superstitions and fantasies of the cultures of the world. I adored ghost stories, monsters and all things that go bump in the night. Most importantly for me however, is the idea of death, the afterlife, and rebirth.

As a Christian, I recognize the sordid and intertwined history of the Church and Halloween. I also choose to see past the hype and fear-mongering. For me, Halloween showcases and commemorates the dead, our dead, our family, friends and ancestors. The day comes to us from ages past wrapped in mystery and steeped in darkness. Halloween also promises something, something to come. The promise of Halloween is that death is not the end, that we can commune in some way to those who have gone before. There is something to learn from our past, from our ancestors.

The Hallowtide is an attempt in learning what Halloween has to offer. Its an attempt to lift the veil between life and death, analyzing why Halloween means so much to me and brings back waves of nostalgic memories of bonfires and masks, why I like to see the world in shades of orange and black.