This is an online version of my column for the Billericay & Wickford Gazette.
Why, when Christians invented Halloween, do so many seem fearful of the festival? After all, there wouldn’t be a Halloween in the first place if it weren’t for the church. ‘Halloween’ as some of you will know, is a contraction of ‘All Hallows Eve’ – the day before All Hallows Day (All Saints Day).
The Church has celebrated All Saints Day on November 1 since around 998 AD and celebrates the belief that those who die in the Christian faith have nothing to fear from death as they continue their relationship with God beyond the grave.
Somewhere down the years the festivities evolved so that on ‘All Hallows Eve’ children began dressing up. In medieval times it was known as ‘A Danse Macabre’ and celebrated victory over the powers of evil and death that Jesus won through his own death and resurrection.
The Apostle Paul does something similar in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 15:55-56 when he uses this chant to taunt death:
Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul views death as an enemy that has been vanquished and uses the same kind of mocking tone that football fans use when their team beats their local rivals (such as Sunderland vs Newcastle or Billericay Town vs Canvey Island). In a similar way, those early Hallows Eve festivities were mocking the forces of darkness for having no power over those who put their trust in Jesus.
Many people bemoan the commercialisation of our calendar, with Halloween now the third biggest grossing festival of the year. Some Christians believe that refusing to open the door to trick-or-treaters or forbidding our children to go to Halloween parties is seen to be an opportunity to testify to Jesus when we are asked why we are not participating.
But if we choose to abstain from the festivities, do we lose the opportunity to explain Halloween’s origins or to talk about our own belief about the death and resurrection of Jesus and challenge some of the more sinister activities associated with Halloween?
I say this because the commercialisation of Christmas and Easter has not stopped the church from celebrating their underlying message. And, just as we can explain the birth of Jesus at Christmas, his resurrection at Easter, should we not also take the opportunity of All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day to explain Jesus’ victory over death?
These significant days in the Church calendar offer an opportunity for Christians to act out their belief in the power of Jesus over death and the grave. What might you be able to do this ‘Halloween’ to share the Good News of Jesus?
NB. In following the theme of All Saints Day our Annual Memorial Service takes place at Emmanuel on Sunday 6 November at 3.00 pm. This service will provide you, and your family, with the opportunity to remember those you have loved and lost as well as reminding ourselves of the hope, peace and comfort God promises to give us in, and through, sad and difficult times in our lives. Please contact me for more details or have a look at my website.