Preparing tomorrow’s Daily Office prayers (Oct.31) turned out to be remarkably difficult. In the morning we observe two obscure but noble Asian bishops, Paul Sasaki of Japan and Philip Tsen of China; there’s only one picture of Sasaki on the whole dang internet, and none at all of Tsen. Since I operate a blog called The Daily Office East for the Asia-Pacific region, as well as one for the Western Hemisphere, I can’t ignore these guys. China had a long history of Western missionaries trying to drum up support for Jesus Christ, while the Japanese Anglican church is unique as the first homegrown, indigenous missionary effort, supported by The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada and the Church of England.
I know nothing about these Asian churches except what I read online, so it’s difficult to tailor a “product” for them; the blog is in English, not their native languages, and most of the traffic we get (and it isn’t much) naturally comes from Australia. I’m always on the lookout for art and photographs that depict Asian Christians, but that means relying on Google and Wikipedia in English, both of which leave a lot to be desired. At any rate I finally got Morning Prayer done for East and West (the content is almost identical, but the East is many hours ahead).
Then at night, I have to make a slight nod to secular Halloween, while the Church celebrates the Eve of All Saints (which is what All Hallows’ Eve really is). I have only one great painting of all the saints, by Fra Angelico, which I have to save for the real day on Thursday, plus a dozen pictures of All Saints churches, of which any one will do. Then I’ll run the All Saints’ Day Collect again on Sunday, when most parishes will actually observe the feast day. In My Ideal World™, Episcopalians would actually observe All Saints’ Day like it’s supposed to be done, with a big celebration this Thursday and no concession whatever to ghosties and ghouls, trick-or-treat and Texas chainsaw massacres. I hate what Halloween’s become.
Then there’s what Gay people do to it, which is the most appalling of all.
Halloween turns me into a mean old man, a curmudgeon. I have “no sense of humor.” But I don’t know what’s funny about drag queens, or leathermen wearing eye shadow, or guys going naked in public, or blood-soaked skeletons on the eve of a religious holiday.
I’m not fond of the Mexican Day of the Dead, either – and I don’t think it should be observed in churches.
All Saints’ Day is one of the highest holy days of the year, according to the Book of Common Prayer, a “principal feast” which takes precedence over any other day or occasion. There are only seven such days, with Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, Christmas and the Epiphany. Further, All Saints’ is so important it now has a popular “extension” the next day, called All Souls’ Day, supposedly for unrecognized saints, and more popularly for deceased friends and family, even though the word “saint” means any member of the Christian community, past or present. I’m a saint, you’re a saint, we’re all saints here. But most people don’t see it that way, they think saints are always heroic figures, so now we’ve got an extra day to remember Aunt Gertrude too.
You can tell I lack a sense of humor about this – though when I was a kid we actually did tricks along with our treats, which was great fun, especially for a “nice” little boy like me. In town we “soaped” windows, which meant buying a cheap bar of Ivory soap, then going out at night to rub it on the windows of neighbors’ cars and houses, whether we liked them or not, then running like hell so we didn’t get caught. To little boys, the most fun part was showing that mean old man on the corner what we thought of him.
Now I’m the mean old man. Country kids would knock over neighbors’ outhouses. We’d have done that too, but in town everyone had running water.
Today towns and cities designate a day and an early time frame for kids to go out, invariably with their parents, to beg for tooth-rotting treats. It can’t be nearly as much fun, but everyone’s paranoid these days about apples and Snickers bars with razor blades in them. I doubt anyone ever stuck a razor blade in a Red Delicious, but today you’d get arrested just trying to give a kid a piece of fruit instead of a mound of candy.
So, bottom line, I am old and curmudgeonly, and I’d like to observe All Saints’ Eve and Day in peace.
When I first moved back to smalltown Indiana in 2005, I eagerly bought bags of mini-Snickers and Butterfingers; no one came, leaving me with 80 little candy bars to get rid of. The next year I didn’t buy anything, so kids knocked on my door; I gave them coins instead. Now I just act like nobody’s home. I haven’t had my windows soaped once. You can’t even find a picture of it online.
The idea of a night for adults to dress up, act silly and have fun does appeal to me. But don’t do it on the eve of a holy day, it’s insulting to my religion – even though the Church chose November 1st to be All Saints’ Day deliberately to co-opt and Christianize the old Celtic/Druid festival. It turns out people are more interested in celebrating death than life, which shouldn’t surprise us at all. Now we’re stuck with it and I don’t like it.++