Hallowe’en

We got back from our holiday on Saturday night to the horror that is Hallowe’en. A posse of our kids’ school friends and their parents were out and about visiting the neighbourhood. On the way back from holiday, I read that the Vatican had weighed in on the matter. The Times has the story here. I have to say that I agree with much of what they are reported to have said. Good on them for saying the unwelcome things.

Here are my thoughts on this event. They’re offered as a starting point in an ongoing discussion. I wish I’d posted this last week. But I was on holiday and it was fabulous!

1. Halloween is commercially significant

In the US it’s the second most popular holiday and it generates 4-6 Billion Dollars in revenue. In the UK it’s the third behind Christmas and Easter. Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny are holding Buffy the Vampire Slayer at bay for the moment. But not for long.

2. Halloween is historically significant

The origins of Halloween date back over 2000 years to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain [sow-in], a word that means ‘the end of summer’. This festival celebrated the end of harvest and the beginning of the Celtic New Year on November 1st. By 43AD the Roman Empire had conquered most of the Celtic regions and in the following 400 years the Roman festival of Feralia was incorporated into it. This day was in late October, when the Romans commemorated the passing of the dead. By the 800s Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the 8th century Pope Boniface IV designated November 1st All Saints’ Day to honour those saints that didn’t have a special day of their own. You wouldn’t want anyone to feel left out! The Pope hoped to put a Christian spin on the pagan Celtic festival with a church-sponsored holiday. It had worked with Christmas. Over the years the festival became known as All Hallows and the night before was known as All Hallows Eve or Hallowe’en.

3. Halloween is spiritually significant

I know I’ll be tarnished with a fundamentalist label but I’ve got issues with Hallowe’en. And I think they’re legitimate. But I’m not about to mount a campaign. I’ve got three main issues with Hallowe’en.

i. Halloween has become a time when wickedness is domesticated

I think the Bible allows a place for imagination. I think it has a place for pretence. And I don’t think it has an issue with fantasy. But Halloween allows elements from the dark side of spirituality to be accepted in mainstream culture. It’s become a holiday of cultural fascination with evil and the demonic. Evil is portrayed as innocent and fun. And it’s neither. We need to remember the wickedness of evil. The devil and his demons are real. We have a real spiritual adversary who seeks our destruction. If we belong to Christ by faith then we have nothing to fear from an enemy that he’s already defeated. But nevertheless wickedness and evil ought to be exposed, opposed and loathed. But our approach may actually be encouraging others to mock something that’s deadly serious. It may also encourage a fascination with something that’s enslaving and ultimately damaging. I want no part of that.

ii. Halloween has become a time when we celebrate what scares us

Out of love for the vulnerable, particularly children we ought to protect them from things that frighten them. Walking into WH Smiths to be confronted by hairy spiders, a witch’s mask and a giant bat is not most young children’s idea of fun. As anyone who’s had chidlren wake up in the middle of the night with bad dreams will tell you, images remain in children’s memories. And they come out at night to scare them. And it’s not fun. Our films have classification guidelines that allow parents the freedom to make a decision. But no such restraint is exercised at this time of the year. We may be strong enough to cope with the associations with evil without being tainted. And we may be brave enough to cope with the frightening images. But not everyone is. And as Christians we should therefore limit our freedom in love for others.

iii. Halloween has become a time when we teach our children that extortion is acceptable

Let me rant for a moment. Trick or treat is extortion. We encourage our kids to go around as a gang, knock on people’s doors and give them a choice between a rock and a hard place. It’s either ‘give me a treat’ or ‘I give you a trick’. That’s organised crime.

Rather than celebrate wickedness we encouraged our family to celebrate Jesus’ victory over wickedness, evil and the devil [Colossians 2:15].

4 thoughts on “Hallowe’en

  1. Mike Dowler November 3, 2009 / 8:01 pm

    In our church, like others I have been involved with in the past, we hold a ‘light party’ on or near Halloween. This provides primary-age children with fun games and the chance to eat lots of sweets, but avoids the scary costumes and extortion. Most of all, it provides an opportunity to remember and celebrate Jesus as the light of the world, who has conquered the forces of darkness.

    However, we don’t do much to train and equip the wider congregation in responding to the issue – such as what to do when children come to the door. I would welcome any suggestions. On a personal note, my favoured approach is simply to tell visiting children that ‘Sorry, but we don’t celebrate Halloween here.’ One advantage of our pluralistic society is that this seems to be accepted without complaint!

  2. John Richardson November 4, 2009 / 7:47 pm

    I hate Halloween. With a vengeance. It’s nothing spiritual – it’s the whole thing of what you call ‘extortion’ (though there’s a fare amount of extortion going on in our supermarkets with the costumes etc too).

  3. Nicky November 4, 2009 / 11:24 pm

    Hi, Totally agree with your point of view! Blessings.

  4. Mr_Jellyman November 7, 2009 / 2:51 pm

    I disagree.

    Having experienced my first North American Halloween and all the stuff that goes along with it. No one even cares were it comes from, it is so much more about dressing up and getting “candy”. It is so much part of the culture here that it’s original meaning has no meaning. It is just one big fancy dress party.

    One other point. We can’t complain that society has lost the true meaning of Xmas, and then try and remind people of the “true” meaning of Halloween and say it has bad roots, we should be glad that no thinks about the original meaning and it is just commercial.

    Next, your rant:

    “Let me rant for a moment. Trick or treat is extortion. We encourage our kids to go around as a gang, knock on people’s doors and give them a choice between a rock and a hard place. It’s either ‘give me a treat’ or ‘I give you a trick’. That’s organised crime.”
    Please most kids don’t even know what that means, the just walk to the door, knock, we say how cute they look in their fairy costume or whatever and give “candy” and they are with their parents, who would just let there children walk around at night.

    Bruce

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