As we well know, a favourite among some Christians, along with the tabloid press, is the idea that there is some kind of atheist "war on Christmas", in which the godless heathens, backed by the wider "PC Brigade", mount an annual campaign to ban Christmas and have it renamed "Winterval" and "Festivus" and say "Season's Greetings" to one another and all sorts of awful things. It is, of course, a nonsense, but that doesn't stop the accusation being wheeled out every year, most recently by Pope Benedict XVI during his UK visit.
If atheists were waging war on Christmas, Christians would have my full support – I mean, trying to discourage people from enjoying perfectly harmless things is wrong, isn't it? So with that in mind, I wonder why the Catholic Church in Britain, in a bout of what I'm going to dub "Biblical Correctness Gone Mad", appears to be endorsing a similar "War on Halloween"?
The Catholic Herald reports that the Church has given its backing to a campaign called "Night of Light", which aims to "reclaim Halloween for God so that it is transformed from a night of darkness into a great Christian festival once again". Perhaps I'm naive, but personally I didn't realise that anyone really did consider Halloween a "night of darkness" any more – isn't it just a bit of fun? Well, if the "Night of Light" campaign has a say, fun will the last thing kids will be having on 31 October. Over to the Catholic Herald:
"Catholic parents are being advised to celebrate Halloween by dressing up their children as popular saints instead of witches and devils.The initiative has prompted the Catholic Herald to open a debate on its site, in which it asks:
They should kit out their youngsters to look like St George, St Lucy, St Francis of Assisi or St Mary Magdalene rather than let them wear costumes that celebrate evil or occult figures, according to a campaign endorsed by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
Nor should pumpkins have menacing or scary faces carved into them, according to a website link provided by the bishops’ conference, but must wear smiley expressions and have crosses cut into the foreheads."
"But can smiley pumpkins and saints’ costumes really change Halloween? Or is it an embarrassing attempt to give a Christian veneer to a thoroughly pagan event?"Err, the latter perhaps? The ridiculous thing is, no one seriously thinks Halloween is even a pagan festival any more (ok, maybe a few people do, and frankly I quite like that). It's the 21st century now, and 31 October is just an excuse for people, young and old, to dress up in silly costumes and act a bit foolish. Trying to discourage it on the grounds of "evil" and the "occult" just makes the Catholic Church look a bit silly, to answer the Catholic Herald's question. (I'm looking for a Halloween-tailored synonym for "Scrooge", if anyone has a suggestion.)
Can't we just let people have their fun? There's no war on Christmas - now call off the witch-hunt and stop this war on Halloween.