Trick or treat — I don’t know about you, but I was not allowed to when I was a child. Rumours of terrible tricks spread in whispers at school. One year my sister and I attended a “Crazy Colours Party,” hosted in place of a Halloween party by a local evangelical group that came to our school occasionally.
I have a sweet tooth, and what child can resist the lure of free candy. I never understood that there was a connection between Halloween and All Souls Day. Halloween comes from the ancient traditions of the Celts who inhabited the British Isles, long before Christianity arrived. November 1st was traditionally the beginning of their winter: the season of darkness and death. Therefore there was a festival on October 31st when the Celts believed that the souls of the dead were loosed on earth, there were fire and sacrificial rituals that they believed protected them from death and spirits. Like many of the pagan festivals it was gradually coopted by Christianity (All Souls Day: November 2nd), today the two are unconnected.
So what do we do about Halloween? It has been commercialized hugely for both children and adults, but when I think of it, I picture the excitement of my godsons off to see their neighbours, hunting for candy, with no thoughts of pranks or evil spirits, as they run door to door.
Jesus commanded us to love our neighbours. Would his porch be decorated ready to meet the neighborhood children? I think it would. I think as in all his interactions in the gospels, he would have welcomed his neighbours, and used the opportunity to connect. Maybe Halloween today offers us an evangelistic opportunity to show our neighbours that we are not choosing to shut ourselves away from society, at our own private party, disapproving eyebrows raised.
All Souls’ gives us a time to remember and pray for those who have died before us, All Saints to remember the martyrs and saints who modeled for us faith and commitment to God. The two together give us the opportunity to reflect on the life that God gave us, and the life that comes after death, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Halloween gives us a time to connect over candy.