Friday, 29 October 2010

Concerning Halloween

I was asked the very reasonable question earlier by the delightful Mrs Acular - as we are a clergy-family, is it appropriate that we 'do' Holloween?

My first instinct was to ask her to go back to sleep at three in the morning, but as I was only fantasising about having a few more hours in bed, it seemed right to grunt and ignore her anyway!

That is my way of saying, 'let me think about that, oh love of my life, and I will get back to you sometime soon'. She is a solicitor, so it always best not to commit until an answer is formed and robust, evidenced and with the support of witnesses!

My first instinct has always been to abhor Halloween, condemn it is a pagan death-fest. It has always had the feel of the anti-Christian to me, but I must confess here, that that view has always been un-informed. Even at theological college some well-meaning sort held a Not-Halloween Party for the kids, on Halloween night - and much as that is a clear misnomer, reinforced my instictive response about the wrong-ness of the whole shebang. So I have a read a little, so that tomorrow, I may furnish my queen with the appropriate Christian repsonsa.

Well, it seems at first glance like a mish-mash of many things - Samhain [Celtic], Pomona [Roman], a marking of "summer's end", All Hallow's Eve [Christian] and so on, and has become associated with purgatory [the basis for the pumpkin lanterns], souling and guising [partly the basis of trick or treating], and other spiritually based pursuits. For me at least, nothing onerous - even if I personally wouldn't much fancy it. 

However, there is the darker side to which I do have to take exception. There is the clear association with death as a living state (if you know what I mean), the occult, the devil and yes, a little bit of a dance with forces more rightly described as evil.

In my mind, and speaking as a parent, I have to draw the balance between the seaonally-based spiritual components as compared to the dark and rather sinister connotations - and my reply to my wife will be formed along the following lines:

...for the kids I consider Halloween  harmless fun, dressing up, a chance for a party perhaps. I would treat it as I would fireworks night, as something that happens from which I see no need to protect my children at the level that three-year olds recieve such things. In the wider sense, I cannot reconcile myself to its darker associations and regard what Halloween stands for to be imcompatible with what I believe about death and life, or the love of God for all people.

It does highlight the issue of how a Christian parent recieves the world for their young children. I am no exception though my public ministry does add a little pressure when making a choice for my kids - as what I do will never be just a matter for my family. Your comments would be welcomed as my answer still feels inadequate!


  1. The true meaning of Halloween was revealed to me 7 years ago when I saw a ghost in my bedroom on Halloween night at 2.10am. I still remember the time and every other detail because I was scared stiff. Yes, I was wide awake. No, I wasn't dreaming. You are right about the dark side of it.

  2. I don't celebrate the secular Halloween. I follow the "Peanuts" Feast of "Waiting for the Great Pumpkin". It's different, somewhat zany, and still allows the pumpkin and party elements of the night.

  3. Never having been terribly keen on the spooky aspects of this feast, and even less on the awful "trick or treat" American version as a childless widow I am clearly very well qualified to add my biased thoughts!
    Which are: 1, let the kids have a party anyway, 2, treat the bad spirits bit as a way of allowing them to "do their worst" 3, on condition that they treat "All Saints" as the price - best behaviour etc - they must pay, and on no account open the door to the greedy little predators in tall hats!

  4. I love it! Bring on the pumpkins, kids in outfits and all the rest. It is lovely, colourful, spooky, great fun and brightens up the start of the cold winter months.

    The downside is when some yobs use it to throw eggs, terrorise neighbourhoods, or simply if people are not courteous and knock at houses without pumpkins etc outside the door, demanding sweets.

    Of course if you celebrate Halloween because you are into Satanism, the occult, cockrel sacrifice, or have joined a coven, that is damaging and dangerous. But then your life in general is probably pretty screwed up if you are drawn to such dark things and Halloween is the least of your problems.

    My dad was a vicar and we never did Halloween because we were "a Christian household", but I think it was just in case a few slightly deranged parishioners took offence.

  5. Thanks to you all - your comments in themselves reflect the conundrum!

    I confess, Suem, that I kinda feel drawn along your line - and maybe sense I am looking for a fight that isnt there. However, I have also learned to dis-trust this appetite in me lol!

    Thanks for all your comments - they are helpful!



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