Wednesday, October 31, 2007

OF DEVILS AND BARNEYS

Perhaps because every job I’ve ever had either required the wearing of a costume or uniform, getting dressed up for Halloween has never seemed very intriguing. Actually it was a good day not to get dressed up. It is not always that fun.

One time Monsignor Novicky at St. Greg’s asked me to help out at the parish carnival (I was a lowly seminarian) and I naively said, “Sure, whatever you want.”

“Oh really,” he said.

Mistake.

Unfortunately it was during the time when Barney the giant purple dinosaur was outlandishly, almost demonically popular. He walked me into a room where a bunch of padding, furry purple clothes, and an empty dinosaur head were sitting on a table. “Why don’t you put that on, walk around the grounds a little and give the kids a thrill.”

I hated Barney. But such is life.

I struggled into the costume that was obviously made for a smaller person and a teenager was assigned to guide me around since I could barely see and had almost already killed myself on a set of stairs. We stepped outside, (this is not an exaggeration) and I swear I took no more than two steps when kids from every single point on the compass turned like a pride of hungry lions picking up on the sent of raw meat and let out a collective roar of, “IT’S BARNEY,” abandoned their parents and came tearing across the grounds towards me. It was one of the scariest moments of my life.

Such is the power of getting dressed up. We get to be something we are not and afforded the chance to see a little bit what it might be like. (I now know I never want to be Barney.) Hence one may not simply get dressed up, but one must be dressed up as something they are not in every day life. For example, I may not go to a costume party dressed as a priest. But my best non-priest friend may. Although I suppose I could go as a Zombie priest.

Don’t you think the last thing Dracula or the Wolfman wants to be on Halloween is Dracula and the Wolfman? I bet even Superman and Wonderwoman want to be somebody else just one day. They probably put on T-shirts, jeans, and boat shoes and hang as just plain people.

There are some things that are still taboo. Prince William learned this not to long ago when he went to a costume party dressed as a Nazi. There are still lines that cannot be crossed easily. It put a certain fright into people who wondered, “Is this revealing something about the man inside the costume?”

Typically within an hour costumes and personas begin to be dropped for comfort and company sake. (It’s hard to eat a slice of pizza with a trident in your hand or to have the entire extent of your conversation with someone be about how you want to bite their neck.) Even Superman starts feeling naked without his cape.

I still am uncomfortable saying that it is Okay to pretend to be something that Jesus spent so much of His time exorcizing while He hung out with us, but I am much more concerned with the type of saint a person is attempting to be the rest of the 364 days and 20 hours of the year. The work is not in rehabilitating Halloween, but reinvigorating the life of the Church. Demons, ghouls, and bandits (and is it just me or are there less and less of these?) are a symptom not the problem. Observe tonight. Enjoy. Plan for tomorrow.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for bringing this up. As I am Wonderwoman, I'd just like to say I agree with what you said about Superman and I. This year, Superman is going to dress up like Aquaman, Aquaman is going to dress up like Count Dracula, his daughter is going as the Little Mermaid, and I'm going as Xena. The Wonder Twins are actually going to take the form of the Olson Twins, because, for once, they just want to look human.

~ Wonderwoman

Anonymous said...

I think every generation has it's horrid , as you put it, 'outlandlishly, almost demonically popular' characters. I loved Captain Kangaroo when growing up - this was my parent's "Barney". LOL
Sorry, no Mr. Green Jeans or Captain for me! Although, I once went as a 'Cereal Killer' - all decked out in Cereal boxes w/ red nail polish ooozing from the rips & tears...I even had a wooden sword (although, now that I think about it, it should have been a wooden spoon - ha ha).

Lillian Marie

uncle jim said...

so, how'd y'all like the costumes me and the missus wore to dinner last friday, huh? them there 'red-wings' on our jackets had to do with them smitten devils of the ice-rink in detroit. i wondered if we fooled anybody.

Anonymous said...

I'm a BIG fan of the Columbus Blue Jackets! Ohio all the way! ha ha

Regarding your costumes, I let it slide, this time. ; )

Lillian Marie

JustMe said...

As a favor to me, my son (an older teen back then) dressed up as a clown for a pro-life party to which many little kids came. He towers over me by a foot, so there was half his unique costume already, but he truly looked professional by the time everything had been donned and applied. He was so pleased with thrilling the little kids and making their parents smile, he said at the end of the party, "Hey.. let me borrow all this for about an hour?" He wanted to walk down through town; I came out to watch for a few minutes, and he was waving at all the cars and they were beeping away. He'd pretend to trip every now and then and make wild motions to keep himself upright..

We NEED that sort of clown running around the city streets now and then.
:-)

Adrienne said...

I think people should spent as much thought and effort dressing for church on Sunday as they do on their Halloween costume. We honor so many secular holidays with special attire ie: Halloween, New Years Eve, even the Senior Prom but come to church looking like slobs.

Oh well, I guess we should rejoice they are there at all:)

Barb, sfo said...

Thank you for this. I really appreciate the part about "what type of saint will you be for the other 364 days and 20 hours"--what a great question to ask ourselves.

Yes, and Adrienne has a good point too, about the thought & effort into Sunday wardrobe :)

Adoro te Devote said...

So anyway, I came to work today not planning to dress up. Because we're going to be Saints tomorrow on All Saints' Day. (Except for at Mass...in which case we'll look like we always do but nicer).

So today it happened that we found a piece of the costume I needed...and I became St. Catherine of Siena. Apparently, though, some of the children thought there was a REAL NUN running around the school, and so the info made its way to the parish office. I had to go there for something and passed the Pastor's door. I don't know if he saw me or heard the parish secratary talking to me, but he came out. They told me that the news of a nun in the building had come to them and they figured it was one of us in costume.

A teacher told me that one of the kids had entered her classroom with the statement, "We have to be good...there's a nun here today!"

LOL!

Later I got to introduce myself to the kids as St. Catherine, but the adults got more of a kick out of it, esp. those who had her as a Confirmation saint or patron because they are named Catherine, etc.

It's been a fun day. Tomorrow we still plan to dress as Saints though.

One thing I've forgotten...St. Catherine of Siena died when she was 33. So did Jesus. And I'm 33 this year.

As much as I love Jesus and St. Catherine, I'm not ready to emulate them in quite that way....

Anonymous said...

atd, What did you mean by "real nun?" Was it because of the costume? Would the children think that only women religious in old-time habits are "real?" Where did they get this impression? Are archaich modes of dress required in order for an adherants of religious life to be considered authentic? Is someone impressing this warped idea on our Catholic youth?

JustMe said...

Gawd, I hope so.

uncle jim said...

Adoro,
I think you should wear that habit everyday ... just thing how it might change the environment around you.
Of course, you could profess first.

Adoro te Devote said...

anon ~ "Real nun" meaning "Are you in costume, or are you really a nun?"

What, exactly, made you read so much into the face-value question of a child?

I answered, "No, I'm not a nun. I'm St. Catherine."

And quite honestly, when I was discerning religious life, YOURS is the attitude that chased me away from non-habited communities. Besides the fact that the vast majority of non-habited communities had also somehow lost their Catolic identity in favor of other New-Agey and earth-worship beliefs.

So if I can in some way help children understand that there in fact are religious sisters who still wear habits, well, then I'm doing my job. Because it's not as though Sisters who don't wear the habits can be so readily recognized.

But that's a different topic so I'll say no more under this post.

Honestly....why do some people have to impress an agenda upon the black-and-white question of a child?


Uncle Jim ~ Nah, I don't think so.