Three really great things about Halloween:
1. It's a secular holiday (and no, please do not start with, it's really pagan, blah, blah, blah...first, that was over 1000 years ago, and second, almost all the modern Halloween traditions are less than 100 years old) and we need secular holidays because, unlike religious ones, we can't fight over them. Anyone can participate and the only requirement is a sense of fun.
2. It's a community builder. Think of it, you actually get to go out and get to know the people in your own neighborhood. Isn't that quaint? This is one of the reasons I am down on shopping centers sponsoring trick-0r-treating. A shopping center is not your community. Your neighbors are.
3. Fear is part of the community (in spite of what I wrote above.) Robertson Davies wrote an Op-Ed piece in the NY Times years ago to the effect that we need Halloween because we need to acknowledge darkness. One of the supreme chills of Halloween for me was the idea that my seemingly innocent neighbors might be capable of putting razor blades in apples or poison in my Pixie Stix. Alas for good old reality, none of them ever did, although I did have a neighbor who more or less poisoned my brain by giving me a pamphlet telling me I was going to hell because I wasn't born again. (See secular holiday, above.)
The day after Halloween is, of course, All Saint's Day, and I would like to give some love here to my current favorite saint, Saint Martha of Bethany, a.k.a. St. Marta de Betania in Latin America.
That's her above, being led down the street sitting on that strange-looking creature. Martha in the New Testament is the sister of Lazarus and a follower of Jesus in her own right. According to the legend that is told about her, however, she later moved to the South of France (well, who wouldn't?) and lived in a town called Tarascon. The citizens of the town were being plauged by a monster called the Tarrasque, which was kind of a cross between a turtle and a dragon. Unlike St. George, whose attitude towards dragons verged on genocidal, St. Martha went out into the wilderness, tamed the monster, and brought him back to the town. The people of the town, perhaps misinterpreting her actions, then killed it. St. Martha was apparently rather annoyed by this and made a speech which caused the townspeople to weep in shame and promise to name their town after the monster. To this day St. Martha's festival is celebrated every July in Tarascon.
See, this is why (in spite of the aforementioned neighbor) I love Christianity. You start out with a nice Jewish girl who just happens to be lucky enough to have a brother who knows Jesus personally, and you end up with dragons and allegory and, 900 years later, advertisements for Leibig's vitamin extract.
I don't know where or when or how but someday I'm going to write a version of this St. Martha and the dragon story.