For years I have enjoyed hosting a Halloween party for the kids of the church. Sometimes there are questions about how appropriate this is. A number of years ago a friend penned an article in her church newsletter that answered those questions very well. With her permission I have shared this article many times and places. So this thanks to Jonna, here is my view on being a Christian enjoying Halloween.
On Oct. 31 we share in the celebration of All Hallows Eve (Halloween). Halloween had its start with Samhain, the ancient Celtic festival that honored their lord of the dead on the first day of winter. According to the ancient Celtic belief, the spirits of all the people who had died in the previous year gathered and at the end of the festival people wore masks and costumes to escort the spirits out of town. In the ninth century the church made Nov. 1 a day for remembering all the saints – All Saints (or All Hallows) Day and so Oct. 31 became All Hallows Eve or Halloween.
But the beliefs of Samhain lingered. Don’t our old fears have a way of lingering even after we have found new life in Christ? On Halloween people were still afraid they might run into spirits of the dead. They got together for safety, bobbed for apples and told ghost stories. If they had to go out they often wore masks and costumes to frighten the spirits. In the 1840’s the Irish immigrants to America brought their Halloween customs with them. In fact, Halloween remains a national holiday in Ireland.
We celebrate All Hallows Eve as a people of Easter faith. We know that our dear ones who have died are in heaven. Christ is risen. Death holds no fear for us. So, we celebrate All Hallows Eve not with fear, but with frivolity. Our Savior Jesus has won the victory over evil and death.
We recognize All Hallows Eve for what it really is, a bit of Ireland come to America, a day for giving good gifts to children, and for allowing ourselves to be children again, a day for giving anything that spooks us a healthy dose of Easter laughter. In your prayers on All Hallows Eve you might think of ways that your new life in Christ still gets tangled up with your old fears and spooks. You might ask God for a fresh breath of Easter this fall. You might laugh with God at the silly things that frighten us.
S o … when a child rings your doorbell dressed in a red devil’s suit or peeking through the eyes of a ghost’s sheet, remember: thanks to our Savior’s victory Satan has much less power than a chubby child in decorated red pajamas.
Adapted and used with permission of the Rev. Jonna Jensen, Central City Iowa United Church of Christ.