Why don’t we celebrate Halloween?

Halloween has lost its way.  It WAS all about light repelling darkness. Druids carved out frightening pumpkin faces and lit them in their windows to ward off evil spirits; they were seeking to reassert control of good over evil and to protect their homes from malign powers, on the night the dead were thought to visit the living. 1

Today, it’s children who are decked out in gory wigs and skulls, pretending to be those visiting ghouls. I totally appreciate that many Mums I know choose to tightly control how Halloween is marked in their homes. Wearing an old sheet in a bid to get some chocolates from the neighbours hardly means inculcating a sense of the manipulative power of evil in your children. However, the question I’m left with is this: why are we – on one level – somehow fascinated by evil and how does it affect us?

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I understand how going into Poundland and seeing a mass of green witch wigs, orange spiders and plastic blood-stained fingers, gets many children excited. That’s the crux of the matter for me.

Hardly a night goes by without some documentary on television detailing horrific crimes. The Sunday Papers give break-downs of exactly how a hostage has been tortured in minute detail. It sells. Under the cover of current affairs, it’s permitted by society. I believe there’s a streak within us all  – and it surfaces with different prompts – that gets excited by evil. This is complicated and I don’t profess to understand it, but it’s why the most docile of people can be gripped by a thriller about an axe murderer, or the grimmest of crime dramas.

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I think it’s important to recognise this proclivity, but it’s vital not to indulge it. When we indulge it, we let go of a bit more humanity and we also tell our children that’s ok, or possibly worse still, that it’s a joke.

I remember reading a grisly book. It was well written, by a highly regarded novelist, but it detailed dreadful crimes. I couldn’t give it to the charity shop, so I put it in the bin. I didn’t want anyone else carrying the burden of having read what I’d read and feeling guilty for keeping going too long. Choosing to read another chapter was wrong and I lost a bit of humanity in the process.

Today, whatever you believe about the tangible presence of evil, we can all recognise darkness in our society. If only we were able to remodel Halloween and encourage our children to see this as a time of celebrating light overcoming darkness, in how we engage with poverty, homelessness and vulnerability in our communities.

We often feel overwhelmed by suffering we see around us. This Halloween our children will be putting up lanterns (still pumpkins) and remembering people who need light in the darkness of their lives. We’ll be dressing up as Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia and going to one of the many Light parties churches and other organisations put on around this time – children can still do the apple-bobbing and pumpkin carving, but with a positive message to take home.  And, because we don’t just want to be merely spinning the story, we aim to try and shine some light, however small, in a practical way, buying some hats to be taken by a friend of ours helping refugees in Calais.

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The days in the Church calendar of All Hallows and then All Souls (both following Halloween) are about remembering those who’ve died. Their lives may have shone a powerful light on our own.  Maybe we can start using Halloween as a way to lighten the lives of others and bring hope rather than fear?

So how do you mark Halloween? Should I just take a chill pill and have fun? Or do you think there’s a sinister side we need to keep in check? And if we want to, how can we be light overcoming darkness? Please do join in the debate.

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9 thoughts on “Why don’t we celebrate Halloween?

  1. Aike Kennett-Brown Messy Church Pioneer St. John's Church

    In terms of Halloween, I’ve always found this an awkward time of year, as I do not like trick or treat. Over the last few years of running a Light Party I have looked into the origins of Halloween and think that what we have now is a very commercialised version of the Christian celebration of Allsaints day (1 Nov) and pre-Christian Autumnal festivals. However, children are instinctively drawn to drama, which included stories of darkness, death and the questions of what happens afterwards. As a Christian, I want children to understand the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection and the promise of the kingdom. I agree with Christian educator & author Gretchen Wolff Pritchard who writes that ‘if you show children the light without darkness, the story loses its power and doesn’t accurately reflect children’s experiences of a world in which they are small and often powerless.’ At the Light Party we always like to explore a bit of darkness as part of talking about Jesus being the Light. We give children the opportunity to dress up and give as well as receive sweets – everything you might want from a night of trick or treating, but taking a look at some of the meaning behind it all at the same time.

    St. John’s Messy Church Light Party 5-7pm Sat 31st October 2015.
    Please bring a treat-size bag of sweets per family, a donation for the Food Bank and an adult!
    We encourage children to come in fancy dress – super heroes, fairies, princess, bright colours etc.

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    1. Naomi Wellings Post author

      Thank you Aike. I think I’m going to read that author, Gretchen Wolff Pritchard. Good point that we do need to consider darkness too in order to have the contrast. And so true, children are used to feeling small and powerless. In a way, with the focus on them sharing in light, they can feel at least proactive in banishing the fears that may overwhelm them. Thanks for commenting and I love how the food bank gets supported at the same time! That’s light in darkness for many.

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      Reply
  2. jolantaon45

    I agree, children bring so much light into our own lives, the least we can do in return is to help show that the world they are growing up in, is a positive one, where love and light can overcome any fear we each may face at times. Jxx

    Liked by 2 people

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  3. suzanne3childrenandit

    I think you’ve put this brilliantly Naomi and I agree wholeheartedly. We have never celebrated Halloween as we don’t think it’s the innocent but of fun that people think it is. That said, I know that most people are not deliberately encouraging evil but just going along with the masses. I think we need to examine ourselves every day – why bring unnecessary evil into our lives and even more so, our children’s lives. Your story of the book was a great example. I know that I’ve experienced this in the past too. A great read. Thank you Naomi. X

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Naomi Wellings Post author

      Thank you Suzanne. I think such an important point that we need to be continually examining how our children are being influenced. I know I’ve let things slip through the net and then realised how inconsistent I was being – and children pick up on that quite rightly. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Kristine Pommert

    I wonder whether much of the child (and adult!) fascination with Halloween stems from the inability of our society to handle death as a meaningful and natural part of life? And from the fact that few people retain a Christian (or otherwise religious) perspective on what happens when we die? Looking at our podcasts, the two that explore precisely these questions still rank among the most popular, and always find new listeners at this time of year. Here’s one: http://bit.ly/1dnkGul

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Naomi Wellings Post author

      Thanks so much Joy. Please do post to my Facebook page too as there are different people who access blog from there and know some who engage there would be interested in supporting this great work you do. All the very best Naomi

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