Getting Ready For Halloween

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?

7 Responses

  1. We redeem it in our approach. For us it is the holiday of creativity and imagination.

    Of course, I write horror stories, so I’m not sure I’m the best example here.

    On the other hand, I agree with Scott Derrickson that horror is the perfect genre to show the reality of evil in the world. Once someone acknowledges evil, the need for redemption becomes pretty obvious.

    • Marcus,
      An interesting point. Tom & I are currently teaching a course on Future Church and whole life discipleship. We have been talking today about the kingdom of God & our vision of the hoped for future of God. However we started with talking about evil and our need to recognize that evil is very present and very real in our world. I had never thought about this in reference to Halloween and our need to acknowledge evil as being present in the world as a starting place for celebrating the redemption that Christ brings

  2. I have thought over the past few years that we might redeem these two major feasts by honouring our forebears and giving true meaning to the ancient Christian belief of the Communion of Saints. Thank you, Christine, for suggestions on how we can put this idea into practice.

    Blessins and bliss

  3. What a great post. I hope you don’t mind me linking to it. Halloween isn’t such a big deal here in Switzerland (the major dress-up-as-monsters event is usually in February for the start of Lent instead) but I have been thinking about how to celebrate All Saints instead. Great suggestions.

  4. Mika,
    I am delighted that you have linked to this. I pray it will be useful to others too

  5. We’re running a remembrance service for the dead, and inviting people to morn and celebrate

  6. You’ve got the historically right idea! Halloween in the Catholic church was All Souls Day where you prayed for those that had already died. A day of remembrance for people who have gone before is aptly, historically appropriate!

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