Celebrating a Christian Halloween
The Joy of Halloween!
Halloween is again, right around the corner, and I must admit, personally Halloween is my second favorite holiday right behind Christmas. Surprisingly (or maybe not), America agrees with me: Halloween is the second most popular Holiday in America. I believe the appeal of Halloween lies in the mystical--we are inherently spiritual beings, we yearn for spiritual things, and Halloween draws on that most human desire and forces us to wrestle with questions of life after death, mystical and cosmic forces, and good and evil. I'll admit too, I like being scared in the horror fashion. I hate heights, needles, spiders, and enclosed spaces, but I love a good fright night (it's a guilty pleasure). However, many Christians are skeptical of, if not downright against, the celebration of Halloween because of the evil and demonic influences that are presented to us, and especially our children. Frankly, I don't blame them for being apprehensive; such things must be practiced with caution. However, though Halloween is based on pagan practices (like every holiday), it has decidedly Christian influences that have fallen away in our current society. This can be difficult because so many kids love to celebrate Halloween. So now, I aim to present a few ideas on how to celebrate a "Christian Halloween".
All Hallows Eve
There are a large quantity of articles concerning both the pagan and Christian roots of Halloween, so I won't go into too much depth. However, for the sake of understanding, here's a brief overview.
Halloween, in the Christian sense, is all about praying for and remembering/celebrating the dead. It is decidedly Roman Catholic in origin because it celebrates the night before the Solemnity of All Saint's day, which in the "olden times" was referred to as "All Hallows" or Hallowmas". In the Catholic Church, a Solemnity is the highest feast, and thus it is celebrated starting the night before (in the tradition of the Jewish Sabbath). This is why we also celebrate Christmas Eve. The Day after All Saints Day is All Souls Day, in which we celebrate the faithful departed, especially those, in the Catholic tradition, who are still in Purgatory. However, along with this remembrance for the dead is a respect, or even fear, of evil spirits. This also, a "healthy respect" for evil forces, is something that the Church encourages.
Because of this, many of the symbols have to with supplication, remembrance, or even fear of the dead. For example, the practice of trick-or-treating (which also relates to Christmas Wassaling) has its origins in Britain when the poor would go door to door asking for food in exchange for prayers for the dead. The more food they received, the more prayers they would offer up. On the darker side of the Holiday, the practice of carving pumpkins, and dressing up in costumes is to ward of demons. Believers thought that the evil spirits would not want to encounter something as scary as themselves and thus instituted these symbols for protection. Today, we use things such as prayer, crosses, bibles, and holy water, but the intent is still the same.
How to Celebrate
So how do we honor the dead while still keeping some of the fun of Halloween?
Throw your own Party
Believe it or not, there is no actual rule that says you HAVE to go trick-or-treating on Halloween, especially if you're above the age of 12 or have started growing facial hair. Instead throw your own religious-themed party. Bob for apples to celebrate the harvest, have a remembrance wall with pictures of your deceased relatives and friends to remember, and talk about good times. You can even have a contest to see who dresses up as the best religious figure.
Instead of dressing up as scary demons, pagan witches, or morally corrupt pop stars, dress up as your favorite saint or religious figure. Whether its Martin Luther, Jesus, or Michael the Archangel, people are sure to come up with some unique interpretations of history's best. This can work two ways--If you host your own party, you can have a contest to see who is the best, most accurate, funniest, etc. However, if you choose to go out and trick-or-treat this can be a wonderful means of evangelizing neighbors, kids, and parents.
Demon Awareness Night
Host a night at your Church (for either youth, adults, or families) to talk about the tests and trials the Evil One puts us through. In today's society many people choose to ignore the existence of demons even if they believe in God. Study scripture and examine with your group the power of Satan and how to over come them, as well as stressing that God is the ultimate power and the final battle is already decided! Depending on your denomination and charisms, this could include altar calls, physically praying over people, or an invocation of the spirit to help battle temptations. Make sure this is appropriate for age level.
Finally, you could host a remembrance service, with your family, church, or community, to remember those who have gone before us and celebrate their lives. Have a prayer service, tell stories about them, and give support to those who may be suffering the loss. This embraces the true spirit of Halloween.
Enjoy the Celebration
Whether you decide celebrate the worldly Halloween or the religious one, fun is to be had for all. I am sure I have only touched on the many possibilities for a religious twist Halloween. If you have more feel free to share them in the comments--the more ideas the better!
© 2010 rdlang05