I have a confession to make.
While many Christians have this week been preparing to guard against the onslaught of Halloween, I have been preparing to dress up my 5 year old as a witch to send her off with a group of other children trick or treating.
I know, I know, it’s not really the done thing for upstanding Christians… but Millie has something of an obsession with fairytale witches. This has been going on since she was 2 and she’s now five so I suspect it’s a phase that may last a while. For the past 2 years she’s watched in misery as her friends dress up as her favourite characters and go to Halloween parties while she’s been forbidden from taking part.
So this year we took pity on her. We are staying with family on the other side of the country, so she’s allowed to join her cousins in all their Halloween activities.
This is the first year I’ve really paid much attention to the festival of Halloween (we never celebrated it as children- my parents being the respectable Christians that I apparently am not!) but I noticed with some interest that this year it seems to be bigger than ever. So I’ve wondered, why is Halloween so fascinating to people?
In the 8th century Pope Gregory designated 1st of November as a day to honour saints and martyrs, which became known as All Saints Day. This holiday integrated some of the elements of the Celtic festival of Samhain (in which people would dress up and light bonfires to ward off the spirits of the dead). The day before was known as All Hallows’ Eve, and eventually Halloween.
Nowadays, in the secular world, Halloween has far eclipsed All Saints Day seeming to maintain more in common with the ancient festival of Samhain with its focus on the spirits of the dead.
In many ways, Halloween holds a distorted magnifying glass up against death. Vampires, ghosts, zombies, skeletons- what do they have in common? They are all dead. Or more accurately, they are illustrations of what might happen to people once they die. And in all of them them, death is not the end.
Ok so you might have the addition of chocolate, candy, a few pumpkins and witches- but essentially Halloween is a celebration centred around an increasingly comical and glib imagining of life after death.
Death can be scary and difficult and upsetting but by turning it into a caricature it becomes less threatening.
Many people in our world are terrified by the prospect of death and the idea that we continue in some way after death has a great appeal.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says;
Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.
He has planted eternity in our hearts. Wow.
We do not need to fear what comes after death for God gives us an assurance;
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
I think our challenge is how we share it with the rest of the world.
WMC Youth and Young Adult Committee Chair