Saturday, October 31, 2009

I LOVE Halloween (and All Saints too)

What do Christians do with a holiday when pagans refuse to stop celebrating it? Most of our Christians feast, including Christmas and Easter, are a result of that dilemma. Halloween is no different.

All this nonsense about Halloween being some sort of satanic cult celebration is just rubbish. There is nothing demonic about the origins of Halloween. The celebration originates from a Harvest Festival from Celtic Ireland around the 5th century BC. This was before anyone ever heard of the devil. As is the case with most cultures who depend on a harvest, this feast was a time to mark the passing of summer into the long nights of winter. It was believed at the time that during these times of transition, the boundaries between our world and the world of the dead was weakened, allowing the spirits of the recently dead to cross over and make contact with the living. This is where we get the idea of ghosts and goblins for Halloween. Large bonfires would be built and grain and animals were sacrificed. There were never any human sacrifices.

When Rome invaded Ireland they thought this was a pretty cool festival and pretty soon in spread to the rest of Europe. It was so popular that as Christianity spread, the church found it impossible to get people to quit celebrating this pagan festival. So it did what it always did with popular pagan holidays. It co-opted and baptized it and gave it a Christian meaning. In the 8th century the pope declared November 1 "All Saints Day". It was as if the church said, "If you are so all fired determined to remember the dead and dwell on death, remember all the saints who have died and gone to heaven"

Halloween has always been a big deal for our family. I would make elaborate and original costumes for my kids. (Which half the time would have to be covered up with heavy winter coats for trick or treating). I would carve pumpkins. My husband would take great care in decorating the porch to be just spooky enough to delight, but not terrify the younger children who came to trick or treat (and we always gave out the best candy). If you are going to boycott Halloween because of its pagan origins you may as well throw out Christmas and Easter as well.

Many culture s have feasts and celebrations that help us deal with the reality of death. And many of those feasts take place at harvest time. It is natural for people close to the land to think of death at harvest. One season of life and growth has ended. Harvest means the death of most food-bearing plants. Death in this sense means completed – they have served their purpose. And yet they yield seeds for a new harvest. Those who worship the Risen Christ and look forward to New Life after completing their purpose on this earth can certainly celebrate that. Halloween is as good a time as any to proclaim Christ's victory over evil.

My kids are away at college now. My daughter came home last week to get her flapper costume and will be trick or treating for UNICEF. My son will probably be playing World of War Craft. I have a pumpkin to carve and I have candy for the few who will venture out on this very cold fall night. This Lutheran Pastor says HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

PS - Yes some of this is a repeat from tomorrows sermon. So?

1 comment:

  1. Lovely!

    And, as my pagan friends like to point out: 1) Satanism has nothing to do with their faith but is a perversion of Christian belief because 2) the devil is a purely Christian figure anyway. "To worship him we'd first have to believe in him, which we don't!"