Yesterday, which was Halloween, I posted, as I often do, something I found that struck me as being profound and helpful, on my Facebook page. It was from the Book of Common Prayer and was a prayer for All Hallow’s Eve: “Lighten our darkness, we beseech Thee; O Lord, and by Thy great mercy, defend us from all perils and dangers of this night, for the love of Thy only Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ”. I was surprised at the number of “likes” it got, demonstrating maybe how this resonated with a number.
Over the years, Halloween has become increasingly popular and has replaced “Bonfire night” as the pre-Christmas winter celebration that children participate in, in particular by dressing up in scary attire and going around trick and treating. I have to confess this is not something I particularly look forward to and is not something we encouraged when my son was growing up. The article I posted on my Facebook page this morning, titled: “Six reasons why I believe Halloween is far from harmless” is pertinent as it helps explain why my own reticence. Even so, not wanting to be churlish or grumpy, I go along with the festivities as I realize for most this is a bit of harmless fun and can be an opportunity for good. As in previous years, I make sure I have a box of chocolates near my front door, to give away from, in case we are aroused by trick or treatsters (this time no-one called). But when I went to the town in the evening to the Soup Kitchen I am involved with, I was somewhat astounded by the number dressed in Halloween attire. I was particularly touched by one little boy who instead of asking for a treat offered sweets to some of our rough sleeper guests. In fairness, most involved in the festivities seemed to be enjoying the experience and doing no harm, and farbeit from me to be a party pooper on such an occasion.
Going back to this morning’s Facebook post, again there was more response than I had anticipated and because it is pertinent, and for the sake of balance, I will give two quite different responses:
“I’ve had many people over the years ask me if I “celebrate” Halloween. I don’t celebrate evil. Or darkness. Or witches, ghosts and goblins. But I DO celebrate kids, little Princes and princesses, Sweets & chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate, neighbours & community. As children of the Light, why in the world would we hide in our houses on what is considered a “dark” day? And what other day of the year does your entire neighbourhood show up at your doorstep? What good does it do to make sure all of the lights are out, trying to make a “stand” for righteousness while the neighbours turn and walk away in darkness? No – as a Jesus follower I will open my door wide, greet everyone with a smile and hand out the best sweets & chocolate possible. No-one has to agree with me & That’s totally ok. We all still belong to Christ. Oh, and I forgot one other thing I also celebrate…freedom in Christ WITHOUT the yoke of legalism….. I believe as Christians we are to redeem the day back by showing the world who the Light of the world is!…JESUS!!!…”
“Halloween is not a celebration of evil. It is the ancient Celtic festival of the New Year. The Celts had only two seasons. Their belief was that the light and the dark were close together, that life and death were close together at this point. They believed that the veil which separates life and death was at its closest. Because of this, they honoured their ancestors, but feared that they could be inadvertently pulled through to the wrong world, hence dressing themselves to ‘trick’ and feasting on the bounty of the harvest ‘treat’. Nothing sinister or evil. Seeing this feast and tradition, the early Catholic Church built much of its liturgical calendar around this and much of its teaching around the Celts dedication. Hence today is All Saints Day (yesterday the eve of the ‘hallowed’. Tomorrow is All Souls day and November the month of the Holy Souls. I take umbrage that people construct evil into my cultural heritage. Halloween is as much a part of Christan development as are Christmas (pagan feast of the Sun God) and Easter (goddess of spring) See how seamlessly these fit into the jigsaw of Christianity. Hey! It’s like God made it that way for a reason. Celtic and proud Catholic and Blessed.”
I daresay, the subject of Halloween – good or bad, will continue to raise controversy. As for me, I will remain philosophical about the whole matter and pray that folk with embrace truth rather than error, life rather than death and light rather than darkness.