I know, I know, I’m a preacher, and this is the devil’s holiday, but I can’t help myself – I love Halloween. I love mothers who hand-make Tinkerbell costumes and the little girls who flit about in them. I love stalking the streets with my little candy-hawking impostors, then copping their Reese’s because none of my kids, thank God, go for peanut butter.
I love playing doorman and passing out sweet treats to strange kids whose parents have driven them into our neighborhood thinking the booty’s better here. I love the people two streets over with the vampire capes, open coffins, eerie dirges blaring, and gentle scare tactics of young innocents.
In my book, the evil spirits of Halloween are no match for the Spirit of Halloween. Lots of Christians and other on-duty parents these days consider Halloween an unholy day rather than a holi-day. They argue that Halloween originally was a pagan holiday, not Christian, and that Satan-worshippers count it their High Holy Day.
Technically, true. Halloween started among the ancient Druids as a ceremony that closed the harvest year. The last day of October was summer’s end, and the night was thought to have special signficance for the dead. The Celtic Lord of death, Samhain (pronounced sow-n, as in sour), was believed to release the departed spirits for one night to return to their homes and haunt the living.
Evil spirits, too, had their heyday as the cold and dark of winter would begin the next day. People wore animal skins and disguises in hopes of tricking the spirits to leave them alone. When Christianity dawned upon the Celtic peoples, much of their primitive fear was replaced by faith in Christ as the Lord of the living and the dead.
But instead of doing away with the festivities altogether, the Church in the 800s decided to “baptize” the events for spiritual purposes. November 1 became All Hallows Day (Hallow=Holy=Sanctity=Saintliness, thus All Saints Day). And the night before became All Hallows Eve or Hallows E’en, thus Halloween.
The Church taught that fear of death could be faced with faith, and so the people preserved the old customs as a way of mocking their former fears and celebrating the victory of Christ.
No, Halloween is not a Church holiday per se. And any good apple-bobber will bring up from the barrel a rotten one now and then.
But anything that draws people of all ages out of their isolation and into fun-filled and generous community activities can’t be all bad. So long as it’s the Spirit, not the spirits, that controls the night.