One of the things that really surprised and horrified me when I first came to the US was the huge emphasis on Halloween. Even churches organized Halloween celebrations with kids dressed as witches and no one thought twice about feeding the monsters that came to their doors trick or treating.
Today there seems to be more talk about not celebrating Halloween because it has been so taken over by witches, covens and non Christian groups. But is that the right attitude? How could we redeem the celebration of Halloween and return it to the Christian celebration it once was? How can we enter into the joy and celebration of God’s rhythm of feasting and add to the fun rather than trying to kill it?
The word Hallowe’en itself is a contraction of “Hallowed evening” the old English word for “holy” still seen in older translations of the Lord’s prayer . The evening is hallowed because is is the beginning of the Feast of All Saints celebrated November 1st. All greater feasts of the church calendar like Christmas and Easter begin in the evening the following the ancient Jewish practice of beginning the celebration of the Sabbath at sundown on Friday evening. So it seems to me that ignoring Halloween and trying to just celebrate All Saints Day doesn’t really work. What we need to do is reattach it to All Saints Day and regain its original and true significance.
So how can we do this? Here are some possibilities:
Matt Stone conducts an alternative service – Thanksgiving for the Dead to reflect on lost loved ones and the saints who have gone before
Helen Hull Hitchcock from Women of Faith and Family suggests holding a children’s party at which children dress up as saints from past ages. She has some other great suggestions that you can check out here
tom and I will be on the road this Halloween but here are some thoughts I have on celebrations we could do in the future to enter into the real meaning of Halloween
Plan a family heritage party. Invite people to do some work beforehand researching their family history and particularly the Christian saints who were a part of it. Ask them to bring photos and stories to share. Finish with a time of prayer for all those that have gone before us.
Several years ago when my youngest brother went to Greece where my father comes from he found out that it is possible that our family name Aroney comes from the name Aaron and that our family probably originated in Jerusalem many centuries ago. It is probable that one of the reason they began the journey out of Jerusalem first to Constantinople then to Rhodes and finally to the tiny island of Kithera at the bottom of the Peloponnese mountains is because they became Christians. There are a number of Greek orthodox priests in my father’s family history and my Aunt Mary was a very devout Greek Orthodox Christian. I know less about my mother’s family history but would love to find out where her family too has had profound encounters with God.
Plan a Halloween pilgrimage. Again this might require some before time research. Explore the Christian heritage of your community. Where did the first Christians come from? How did they interact with the native peoples? Where was the first church established? Who were some of the early Christians who impacted your community. Plan a pilgrimage walk to the site of the first Christian community and if possible have a time of prayer and possibly even a eucharistic celebration to remember those who have gone before
What ideas do you have for a redeemed Halloween celebration?