Vashon celebrated Halloween this week, filling the island with the sights and sounds of ghastly crypt-dwellers, comic-book saviors and extraterrestrial invaders.
It’s a holiday that stands apart in the halls of American holidays for its whimsical, in-your-face spirit.
Many of our holidays bear deep religious or cultural roots, such as Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa; or remind us of our values and responsibilities to each other, such as Juneteenth, Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Indigenous People’s Day; and some call on us to continue the work of great Americans, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Some, like New Year’s, are mostly an excuse to party.
None come as close to the spirit of mirth, though, as Halloween.
Halloween carries few pretensions. It is fun first, and fun last. Commercialized like so many other holidays, it’s an opportunity for children to enjoy a fun ritual of youth; for adults to flirt, party and show off their artistry; and for neighborhood dads to compete over who can set up the biggest lawn skeleton.
But the year’s spookiest holiday does serve a valuable social purpose, even if it’s not particularly tied to faith or a cherished social group.
Take Vashon, for instance, where the third annual Witch’s Paddle has once again raised money for charity — this time for the DOVE Project and the Donna Donnelly Scholarship Fund. On Halloween night, numerous organizations along with the Vashon Chamber of Commerce pushed to create space for young people to hang out and have wholesome fun — a luxury that not all youth in this country can enjoy.
Halloween is a time when we work to entertain and protect children; when we celebrate art and storytelling; and when we show a creative side of ourselves which we often hide away.
In this way, Halloween becomes a new sort of hallowed evening. Though it has strayed quite a bit from its Christian cultural roots as All Hallows’s Eve, a liturgical remembrance of the dead and departed, a new secular tradition has grown alongside the one still practiced by many Christians.
Blended with the spirit of harvest festivals, horror movies and candy bars, Halloween is a holiday of contradictions — just like the U.S. itself. But at least here, Halloween is also a time of good-natured fun, community support and creative expression. It’s as Vashon as anything.
So from The Beachcomber to you: Happy Halloween!