I have two boys, ages nine and six. I can mark Halloween celebrations in two categories: cute and cuddly, and then … not.
For their first Halloweens, they were both puppies. If there’s anything cuter than a crawling baby looking like a playful puppy, I don’t know what it would be. When my youngest son was a toddler, he was a lion in a cushy little costume. For some reason, he whispered the “roar” every time.
There were years of train conductors and Curious George, and then even a year of the Swedish Chef. Adorable.
This year, I asked the boys what they’d like to be, and my youngest said, without hesitation, “Deadpool.”
I have no idea what that is, but I knew that it couldn’t be appropriate for someone still in possession of most of his baby teeth. We settled on Spiderman instead. We have transitioned away from “cute” to… toeing the line of scary.
This mild flirtation with danger coincidentally lined up with our move to Texas a few years ago, where our proximity to Mexico brings us closer to the celebration of Día de Los Muertos (or “Day of the Dead”), with Calaveras, pan de muerto, sugar skulls, and chrysanthemums. These celebrations toe the line of scary, too, but they show skeletons laughing, dancing, and celebrating. One could say that they’re laughing at death.
And what better way to overcome our fear of death than to laugh at it?
I recently read the novel Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer. There’s a storyline within it when a child gets seriously injured, and he asked his parents repeatedly, “It’s funny, right?” Because he knew that if they could laugh at the situation, it couldn’t be that dangerous. Día de Los Muertos, with its dancing skeletons, takes away the seriousness and danger of death by laughing at it.
As Christians, we believe that Jesus took away the sting of death with his own death on the cross. This brings to mind the celebration of all the saints we celebrate on All Saints’ Sunday. We baptized both of our babies on that Sunday, as a reminder that we are all connected to the communion of saints. I think of this when we bring them to the Communion rail each Sunday when we welcome newly baptized members of our faith, and when we sing the words to “Abide with Me,” which draws from 1 Corinthians 15:55:
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
This isn’t to say that we’ve given up grieving completely, of course. Heck, I’m still grieving the end of the cute costume phase. But if laughing at death, through costumes, through the resurrection, or through dancing skeletons, helps us embrace the new life to come, I’ll take it.
What costume stage are you in?
What are you learning from All Hallow’s Eve and All Saints’ Day this year?