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Halloween vs. Holy Wins

To many in Poland Halloween is a left-wing, if not pagan threat to the country's moral and religious wellbeing. Our Polish columnist explains

A Witch Trial - cc Wikimedia


In Polish we have a very useful proverb: 'Najciemniej jest pod latarnia' – the darkest place is under the candlestick. It means not seeing something because it's so obvious and visible – 'hiding in plain sight' would the English equivalent – and it seemed particularly apt for a realisation that struck me this week on Halloween (31st October, in case you don't know English festivals).


Every day since I moved to London from Poland ten years ago, I've been surrounded by the cheerful, phenomenal and possibly self-contradictory-until-you-see-it English way of taking life as it is, to its full and extreme. At lunchtime on All Hallows’ Eve I saw a great example of this walking down Wimbledon Broadway: Twins with moustaches and shorts, pirates, kings, witches, wizards, animals, faeries, gauchos with long capes, devils, angels and all sorts of odd characters, silhouettes and hard-to-tell-who-they-are-meant-to-be guys.


Suddenly a thought hit me, one that had never occurred to me before and now seemed completely obvious: Everyone in costume had one very important thing in common – something few were probably even aware of: Being in disguise on Halloween, whether in the daytime or at night, is essentially a specific, great and yet simple affirmation of life: As long as this life lasts, let's scare all bad demons, spirits, devils, you name it, and let's celebrate our terrestrial journey while we can. Let's show Death the finger, and let's do it with joy, a smile, fun and courage before tomorrow comes. Let's get some treats; let's do some tricks. What's the worst can happen? And are we going to care when we're gone anyway? All we can be sure of is that those who’ll take over from us in the future will follow this custom as we have our ancestors. It's so simple, so natural, so human and still so... Christian.


As you probably know, and in case you don't, Halloween comes from All Hallows' Eve. It's the evening before 1st November, which is called All Saints' Day in the Christian tradition and All Hallows' Day in English. Like Christmas and Easter, it's an example of how easily and successfully Christianity incorporated and transformed pagan traditions to suit its own needs and celebrations.


In Halloween, non-Catholic Christians found their way of celebrating the life cycle, honouring the recently passed away and remembering the longer dead. The Ancient Romans used to say 'carpe diem' – seize the day. Their Christian descendants masochistically believed that the only correct path to (extra-)terrestrial happiness is 'memento mori' – remember death.


In contrast, the next day  the Catholic world commemorates All Saints' Day, with hymns, prayers and its usual severity. Catholics seem to live in a constant state of self-punishment, on the edge of craziness and destruction and on All Saints' Day they remember, with a lament and sorrow, all those who lived before and are expected to rise from the dead; at least the ones who are thought to deserve eternal life.


During the long dark Middle Ages in Christian Europe, you'd have been beaten or whipped for the slightest whisper expressing a desire for anything more than a poor humble life and painful death leading to an indefinite eternity and for the glory of a crucified Jewish prophet, whose mother was supposedly a virgin and heavenly father so cruel he sent his only son to death in order to save humanity from – what exactly? Humanity would generally prefer to avoid war, famine, plagues and each other's hate. Most lives lived on this planet have been reduced to a hard and painful existence, worth no more than their donations to those who made them live in such horribly inhuman ways: In Europe the Judeo-Christian (Catholic) indoctrinators, the Church clerks, bishops and lustful popes with shady reputations and bastard children.


On one hand there were those who lived in superstition, delusions and misery; on the other there were those who lived in huge, expensive residences and palaces, far away from the overcrowded cities, with their starving masses and stinking sewers, even further from their prophet's misery,  chastity and decency which they loudly praised whilst screwing around and gorging themselves to obesity. You just have to look at the pictures of Holy Mother Church's fat 'princes' to see what I mean.


Given the clearly hypocritical and corrupt state of the Catholic Church by the early 1500s, it's no wonder a breakthrough came – on All Saints' Eve, 31st October 1517 to be precise. A priest called Martin Luther nailed a piece of paper – now known as The Ninety-Five Theses – to the door of a church (called All Saints) in Wittemberg, Germany. What he had written not only revolutionised humanity’s perception of God, faith, and ultimately people path to Salvation, it brought revolution to the Catholic Church itself.


496 years ago this week the Christian religion, the one 'civilised' Europe was so proud of, shifted, cracked and changed. Martin Luther's ideas and courage led to the creating and defining of a new quality in the civilised world, and from that a new world where the happiness of the living, their aspirations, wellbeing and prosperity laid the basis for modern Europe. For many nations God became the good father again and Jesus, his son, was seen as a real saviour. Religion had grown closer back to humanity's needs and expectations.


In my Catholic Polish motherland, many people see Halloween and St Valentine's Day as massive, strange and foreign threats, commercialised extravaganzas whose aims are to deprive our nation of its natural, godly, and righteous traditions and religion. Some openly say it's a left wing political, if not pagan agenda, and homosexual and gender propaganda. Others say it's a godless abomination – how can one mock death? (The very same death that – according to their faith – is the beginning of the new, apparently better, eternity). For example, earlier this week I came across an interesting article on a Polish web portal. Its bottom line is that Halloween is bad, wrong and destined to steal our Polish identity, our faith and – in the bigger picture – our country. You might be surprised how many Poles actually believe this; I took the liberty of using its title for this article.


It's fine by me if they choose to restrict their lives now in the hope of a better life after death; what I object to is their attacks on my world and me because we don't share the same philosophy. But do you think it's worth spending any time engaging with them and arguing with such idiotic ideas? I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Matt Mironowicz

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