I didn’t grow up celebrating Halloween or attending All Souls’ Mass. On Halloween, trick or treaters were generally thought to be kids up to no good, looking for an excuse to toilet paper a house or spray silly string through their neighbour’s letter boxes.
Some years we went to “Crazy Colours” parties, which was the way the Church of England School down the road tried to combat the ghoulishness of Halloween and bring kids into a safe, more savoury space. We were taught not to engage in the pagan narrative of Halloween and instead came to a light & friendly playtime, with snacks & crafts.
Simon Jenkins writes, “Like Christmas, Halloween has a tangled story. Its roots can credibly be followed back to the old Celtic festival of Samhain, which means ‘summer’s end’. The medieval church dressed it up in Christian clothes (as it did for Yuletide) and declared it to be All Hallows Eve, the evening before Hallowmas, or All Saints.
The church’s creation of Halloween was intended to divert people from telling Celtic horror stories and instead get them thinking about the inspiring and heroic stories of the saints.” Jenkins goes on to say that Halloween is about play, and reflecting on this it strikes me that we often let playtime fall by the wayside in our daily lives, when in fact it is something that brings people together. If Halloween is about the darker side of life, or acknowledging death and those who have gone to their eternal rest before us, doesn’t it give us the opportunity to face the darkness of this world and talk about Jesus as the light that overcomes that darkness? Jenkins (I encourage you to read his article, link below) makes the point that with Halloween and All Souls the church and the secular share the same space.
This week, we had open church on Wednesday complete with Hot Apple Cider (non-alcoholic), treat bags with fruit and candy, music and even a few pumpkins on the steps. We had over 60 people visit the church. A dozen or so went on an excellent tour of the building with Allan Duncan, and our own PJ Jansen, Assistant Organist and Trustee, took people up the bell tower.
Those who came in, brought their hopes and sorrows, their experiences of church and their stories. They came to talk, they came to listen, and everyone who visited took part in the playful exchange of candy and a few Halloween stories.
It is good for us to be here. Thank you to all of you who opened up the church to our neighbours this week.
Simon Jenkins: https://shipoffools.com/2018/10/halloween-in-the-crypt/