For many churches this week, there won't be any Styrofoam grave stones, skeletons or spooky signs of death and decay. Instead of morbid celebrations of Halloween, there will be innocuously termed—and innocuously decorated—"Harvest Parties." It's Halloween cleaned up, made appropriate even for the youngest congregants.
But maybe that's a wrong approach. Halloween, also known as "All Hallows Eve," and All Saints Day (on Nov. 1) offer a rare opportunity in the Christian calendar to reflect on death. The holidays were intended to celebrate the communion of the saints, the spiritual unity of all—living and dead—who trust in Christ and await the eventual resurrection of their bodies.
This is the hope on which Christians stake their lives. But in a culture with deep fears of death and dying, even many of the faithful would rather avoid talking about the grave.
1. Pb wrote:
How about doing this the next day? Halloween has to much baggage and I though All Saints Day was placed to counter some of it.
October 29, 2:13 pm | [comment link]
2. Harry Edmon wrote:
The real name of Oct. 31 is Reformation Day
October 29, 2:37 pm | [comment link]
3. Pete Haynsworth wrote:
The Wall Street Journal’s each-Friday “Houses of Worship” column - which this is the most recent - is usually the best sermon this pewsitter is going to get all weekend ... wide-ranging, thought-provoking.
October 29, 2:40 pm | [comment link]
4. David Keller wrote:
I think its shameful that all those three year olds dressed up like Luke Skywalker are really devil worshipers in disguise. This is probably the most important issue facing Christendom. Its too bad more people don’t condemn Halloween parties and candy.
October 29, 2:48 pm | [comment link]
5. C. Wingate wrote:
My eldest’s first Hallowe’en costume was St. Dunstan!
October 29, 3:18 pm | [comment link]
6. Catholic Mom wrote:
Interesting the difference in how some Protestant churches deal with this versus Catholic churches. My older son’s best friend goes to a non-denominational Evangelical church. On Saturday night they are going to have a big youth event essentially competing with Halloween. Among other things they have acquired a junker car and the kids will spray paint the car with religious slogans (“Jesus rocks” etc.) Supposedly this will divert their otherwise potentially anti-social impulses into socially acceptable pro-Christian behavior. My son’s friend invited my son to this and his mom called me up yesterday and spent like 15 minutes on the phone justifying it to me to calm my potential fears about it. Only I don’t have any potential fears about it. I don’t think putting toilet paper in trees on “mischief night” or dressing up like a vamire on Halloween is going to make him a bad Christian (provided the behavior doesn’t extend to dangerous or destructive activities) and I don’t think spray painting “Jesus Rocks” on an old car is going to make him a good Christian. So I really don’t care what they do at this (adult supervised) party.
On the other hand, as it happens, my older son was actually baptized on Halloween (which fell on a Sunday the year he was born) and the altar was surrounded with jack o’lanterns. Not just pumpkins but jack o’lanterns with carved faces and lighted candles in them. So my baptisimal photos of him post-ceremony show him being held in the arms of a smiling Father Greg surrounded by eerie jack o’lanterns!
October 29, 3:22 pm | [comment link]
7. Sick & Tired of Nuance wrote:
For some years now, I have looked on Halloween (All Hallows Eve) as Christian Memorial Day. It is a good time to reflect on Hebrews 11, Foxes Book of Martyrs, and checking out Voice of the Martyrs on the Internet. (http://www.persecution.com/)
I enjoy a Washington Irving story as well as the next fellow, and I personally take my kids out for Trickortreat and Harvest Festivals and parties. I want them to enjoy the innocent fun that I enjoyed as a kid. I just think it is also important for them to have a Christian perspective on the holiday…for that is what it is, a holiday (holy day) of remembering our brothers and sisters in the Faith.
God bless you all. Enjoy and keep the Faith.
October 29, 4:11 pm | [comment link]
8. deaconjohn25 wrote:
I live in a city that borders on Salem , Mass. and that city has made a mockery and fraud of what happened there to greedily suck up tourist bucks.
October 29, 8:02 pm | [comment link]
In 1692, in Salem, if an accused witch confessed to being a witch she was set free with a warning, not executed. Those ultimately hung (or pressed to death) were those who—knowing they weren’t witches—would not lie under oath to save their lives. They should be treated as heroes of personal integrity not as evidence of an occult presence in Salem.
If they were celebrating those that died as martyrs in defense of truth and personal integrity it would be something good.
But they have turned it into a pseudo occult extravaganza—almost boasting that Salem was and is some sort of witch and occult center. It is as if they are vomiting on the graves of people who had a sense of honor that many of today’s Salemites clearly lack. All city agencies and vehicles there even have an official city seal with a witch on a broomstick.
The newspaper that is the semi-official voice of the Vatican has just come out with a condemnation of the course Haloween is taking these days ( here and elsewhere). Every Christian Church in Salem should nail this headline story to its front doors.
We Christians should risk being the party poopers for not wanting to be part of what are becoming virtual pagan and occult revels. I have already told a group for which I am chaplain that I -and none of my family—will have anything to do with Haloween Parties any more.
In our area Haloween has become almost an adult rather than a kid thing. And some of it so adult, it should be x-rated.
I know from some of the comments here that all this is taken lightly with even some sarcasm directed at those who have had it with Haloween. But if even some of what is going on in Salem spreads, it will be like a cancer that is very hard to control. (Oddly, in one sense, what is going on in Salem could very well be the work of the Evil One—what better way to seduce people into trafficking with evil than to make it all seem like so much lighthearted fun and innocent revelry.)
9. IchabodKunkleberry wrote:
And don’t forget Nov. 2nd - All Souls’ Day. Not everyone makes it
October 30, 2:16 am | [comment link]
to a venerated or acknowledged sainthood, but they should be
remembered. We’ll all be on the bone pile some day.
10. Br. Michael wrote:
Well, I still like the dress up and “trick or treat”. I have fond childhood memories. It’s true that some of this can go to far and that ought to be avoided, but, I for one, try to lighten up and enjoy the fun. Some of the kids costumes are really cute and quite clever.
I actually watched “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” again.
October 30, 8:06 am | [comment link]
11. Sarah wrote:
RE: “This is probably the most important issue facing Christendom.”
Yes—let’s focus on the essentials. Kids enjoying themselves collecting candy in plastic pumpkins is clearly something that we need to clamp down on—it’s important that kids learn to suffer for the Christian faith early in life so that they don’t have any false misconceptions about what Christianity is really all about.
In fact, I think that mini-snickers bars are so associated with the pagan holiday [see the national television ad running right now] that we should utterly forswear them as Christians.
I will be responsible for collecting all of your cast-off mini-Snickers bars and disposing of them. Give me a shout for us to arrange pick-up.
October 30, 9:19 am | [comment link]
12. Pete Haynsworth wrote:
I now realize how rarely T1:9 post-ers follow Dr. Harmon’s “Read It All” invitation
October 30, 9:42 am | [comment link]
13. Old Pilgrim wrote:
It’s tough to “read it all” when following the link asks one to “log in or subscribe” for a fee. That said, the point about Halloween being a time for Christians to address the topic of death misses an important point. We address the topic of death at Easter.
October 30, 10:45 am | [comment link]
14. deaconjohn25 wrote:
Maybe you have to live next to Salem, Ma. to see what they are doing to Halloween and the “witch” executions to be nervous about their way of “celebrating” Halloween spreading.
October 30, 6:27 pm | [comment link]
In many stores in our area you cannot get costumes of good people—like Luke Skywalker or a firemen’s outfit, etc. which used to be the majority of costumes available to young kids. Now, in many stores, you can buy only Freddy Kruger outfits, Vampire regalia, brutalized and bloody face masks, etc. Casper the Friendly Ghost has become “Hey kid! how would you like to dress up as Ted Bundy the Mass Murderer.”
And I don’t remember adults prancing through the streets dressed in semi-naked x-rated costumes when I was a kid.
Maybe I wouldn’t feel so strongly about it if my wife wasn’t a descendant of one of those executed in Salem for being a “witch” (Samuel Wardwell) because he would not lie under oath—lie that he was a “witch” and thereby escape execution.
Yet today in Salem the attitude is there must have been something occult behind what happened there, that maybe those people executed were in some way witches and actually members of an occult religious system undergoing persecution.
15. libraryjim wrote:
Here’s a very well written, well researched article on Christians and Halloween from a Lutheran Perspective that doesn’t require a log in or subscription.
October 30, 8:20 pm | [comment link]
Jim Elliott <><
16. libraryjim wrote:
DeaconJohn, what an area you must live in! We have Target and Wal-Mart and Party City that all sell Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, pirates, police officers, and traditional ones like vampires, and many, many family friendly costumes. In fact, I’d have to go to Spencer’s in the mall to find a risque outfit here, and I don’t go there anyway.
The costumes are there, readily available
October 30, 8:23 pm | [comment link]
17. David Keller wrote:
SARAH—I think all trick or treaters should be forced to attend BJU—that’ll teach ‘em.
October 31, 10:25 am | [comment link]