Tomorrow is Halloween, or “All Hallows Eve.”
For some in the Christian tradition, it’s not something to be celebrated, because they see it as too connected to demonic forces.
Some people understand Halloween’s history as connected to ancient pagan or Celtic festivals, and other folks see it as having purely Christian history. I don’t claim to be a Halloween scholar, but I am a Halloween fan, even though I’m a weenie.
I’m way too skittish to enjoy a haunted house any scarier than the one at Disney World. I don’t see movies that are violent or gory, so you won’t find me at a place designed to frighten me. Having said that, I’m still a fan of Halloween. I love seeing the kids dressed up in costumes, plain or elaborate. I love talking to children about their choices, some of whom knew in an instant what they would be for Halloween and that choice never changed. Others debated for weeks, going back and forth among many options, causing their parents great angst about when the final decision would be made and how they were going to pull it off.
I think it’s good for children to sort through their possible alter egos and decide which one they want to live as for a few hours. I love that our congregation is now doing a “Trunk or Treat,” not necessarily as an alternative to neighborhood trick-or-treating, but as another opportunity for the children to dress up, and for the adult members of the church to celebrate our children.
Halloween is also the introduction to All Saints Day, where we remember those who have died. (In the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, All Saints Day is separate from the following All Souls Day, but most Protestants have blended All Saints and All Souls into one.) That’s the time where we remember all those who died in the faith and have moved into the arms of the loving God. It’s a day of thanksgiving for those who’ve lived among us, teaching us what it is to live and die as those who have faith.
For me, Halloween is an introduction to All Saints Day and is a reminder of what it is to live in the world. Growing up, I lived across the street from my best friend, Peggy. And every year, we partnered up as we designed our costumes for Halloween. One presidential election year, we were a ballot and ballot box (and yes, the ballot was marked.) Our most triumphant success was when we were, of course, a two-person horse – complete with hand-made paper-mâché heads for the horse and rider (we traded off who got to be the front end).
But every year, Peggy and I would walk up and down the streets of the neighborhood with our fathers, who held our hands when we were young and kept us in view as we got older. There was always just a hint of danger as we saw the older kids in scarier costumes, but we knew that we were ultimately safe. And we knew that our moms were home, waiting to welcome us back into light and warmth, as they handed out candy to the children coming to our front doors.
Those Halloween walks were formative to my faith. I know still, long after I’ve stopped walking the streets with Peggy, holding hands with my dad, that there is some real danger in the world, and there’s lots more perceived danger in the world. But I know that I am never out of sight of a loving God, and that ultimately I will be welcomed home to a place of light and warmth. I know that ultimately I am safe, because I know that in life and in death, I belong to God.
Happy Halloween and a blessed All Saints Day.
The Rev. Dr. Joanne Sizoo is pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church in Fort Mill. Contact her firstname.lastname@example.org.