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AARRR With Love

I, like many parent's of special needs kiddos, get most of my info, support, and Q &A, satisfied by the social media. There is a facebook page for every diagnosis and childhood ailment, and some that cater to all of them at once. My facebook feed resembles a lonely drunk's disjointed late night conversation with the bartender. Between the numerous ads for sale horses, photos of friend's babies and cats, sporadic gluten free cooking recipes and composting tips, I have also posts about severely ill or handicapped children. Following the photo of the gleefully smirking baby posing next to the family dog, is a photo of a child who has severe disabilities, and who will never be able to pose so easily for a family snap. Some days I just shut the whole thing down and walk away. The contrast is too much for me. But lately, I have been blown away by several things that seem in common across the board (or feed, to be technical) and it is surprisingly refreshing. Being a member of several such support groups and pages for kids with Leo's condition and more, I have, in many ways become immune to the harshness of life that sometimes is just unavoidably "there" for me to see. Tragedy, much worse then ours, is a common thing in those places, and because of the nature of such groups, also the support given from other parents online become just another "comment" lost in the sphere of data.
I often find myself struggling with this, and not because I become too affected, but because I become callus and distant from the events presented. And with the approach of halloween, my pessimism if anything, became worse. Oh gee, I would think, more pictures of kids in costumes, yippee! Seen one superman or witch and you have seen them all. But I am happy to say, that I am now eating that pessimism with a fork and spoon and a surprisingly scrumptious topping of wonder. Halloween was never a big deal in my house when I was growing up, in truth, it was quite a boring time because we would turn off all the lights, lock our doors, and sit in the gloom just counting the hours until the mundane and strange American holiday would be over and we could turn on the telly. Actually I was kind of traumatized with this holiday by an incident at my very strict catholic school about a mixup with costume rules and the actual date of Halloween. I was in second grade. My very Russian parents had decided to give this mysterious holiday the old college try and dressed me up in a very authentic and artistic St. Anna's garb for All Saint's Day (the school shared this day with Halloween) which I was very proud of, until the shattering moment when the whole school in their correct blue and white uniforms laughed me out hysterically because halloween was not until tomorrow and unfortunately not today. The climax of this event was when it was actually halloween but I refused to get into my costume on the deep distrust that my parents screwed up the date again. Of course this time I was the only one NOT in costume. Ahh childhood! I still have a strange hesitation in dressing up and have a nervous tick of compulsory date checking. Wait, what's the date again?? So I never really gave Halloween another thought until now. Our daughter is seven, and has reached the age of so called "consciousness" which in my mind, just means the age at which we can't fudge stuff as easily anymore, because she is the first to call us out on it at the first teeny hint of "fudging." And this year she is insisting on actually doing this whole halloween thing. "Ugh" said my brain, "I would rather eat my arm up to the elbow and past," but my mouth went ahead and said "you bet honey! Lets go to the party store right now!" So instead of forcibly ignoring this holiday, I dived right in with Olympic diving style. And happily, didn't plaster my brain all along the bottom.
Did you know that the actual beginnings of this undead mayhem had very Christian origins?
Here is the skinny, provided by a very timely and thoughtful article my Russian Mama sent me. You can read the article in its' entirety here: Halloween-An Orthodox-Christian-perspective.

"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 4th 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 believed, but to celebrate an already well-established feast dedicated to all the Saints."

As you see, the early beginnings of this funky American pastime were in fact, quite pure and not even American! News flash Hallmark!
But as sometimes happens with life, things get warped; twisted:

"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, monsters were gaining in popularity and they became established costumes for children."

Heck yeah! That's the halloween we all know and love. So what to do, what to do, when as a devout (hey we try) Christian your child declares over her morning toast, that this year she is going to be a blue fairy or a good witch, she hasn't quite decided yet, and that you and the rest of the zoo is expected to follow suit? Well hopefully everyone has a Russian Mama who is google and email savvy to forward you pertinent articles, but in a pinch, I will do my humble best to pass along the info.
As the author of this article continues, the remedy to this spiritual conundrum is pretty simple.

"My personal suggestion is for the Church in America to embrace Halloween. 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 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. 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."

Hmmm, ok well that sounds doable. In fact, is sounds downright great. There is peace in the house, along with blue fairies, and you know, there really isn't anything wrong with sometimes acting out or emoting the parts or characteristics of people that inspire us, and if sometimes those people are not the Holy Fathers every time but a mysterious cloaked lady or a noble pirate, we must remember that we all are born with the seed of nobleness and Godliness.

"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."

Bearing this new perspective in mind, as I tentatively browsed my facebook feed today, and I was blown away, just blasted away, by how many parents of special kiddos went to great lengths; I mean huge, like football field lengths, to make Halloween happen for their miracles. My feed is inundated with image after image of crazily creative costumes of heroes, magicians, firemen, fantasy characters and such all donned by children who may never in their life again get the opportunity to say, actually become a fireman. Because they cannot move outside of the help of a wheelchair.  I was humbled, amazed, and awed by the excuse of this holiday for these parents to create such a gesture of love for their children.

Here are a couple of my favs:

The whole fam here dresses up to accompany the boy who, though in a wheelchair, is flying in a hot air balloon adventure.

You can't buy this at a party store folks. But this cheeky boy was born to be a pirate!

And speaking of noble pirates, because I seem to have on my mind, here is our little bub who spent the whole drive to a friend's costume party yesterday practicing his kindly "AARRR!"


And because, she started it, here is our mysterious blue fairy



Instead of saying: WHAT are you going as for halloween, say, WHO are you going to pick as your inspiration for halloween? Because there is good in everything, and we need to be sneaky enough to discern it and recognize that anything is doable, with the absence of fear or prejudice.


video

Happy Halloween to you from a cheery Pirate/Lion and a masked blue fairy.


Comments

  1. you will delighted to know that in our Christian and friendly neighborhood one of the larger churches is having what they call "trunk and Treat".....this is mostly farm land and country....so people bring their cars and treat to the church parking lot, and parents can bring their small children to "trick or treat" at each car in a safely lighted parking lot with lots of loving supervision.

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