Friday, 28 October 2011

Should we celebrate Halloween?

On Monday we shall be celebrating Halloween, but just what is it actually a celebration of? And how did this peculiar custom originate? Is it, as some claim, a kind of demon worship? Or is it just a harmless vestige of some ancient pagan ritual?

The word itself, "Halloween," actually has its origins in the Catholic Church. It comes from a contracted corruption of All Hallows Eve. November 1, "All Hollows Day" (or "All Saints Day"), is a Catholic day of observance in honour of saints. But, in the 5th century BC, in Celtic Ireland, summer officially ended on October 31. The holiday was called Samhain (sow-en), the Celtic New year.

One story says that, on that day, the disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. It was believed to be their only hope for the afterlife. The Celts believed all laws of space and time were suspended during this time, allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the living. Naturally, the still living did not want to be possessed. So on the night of October 31, villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes, to make them cold and undesirable. They would then dress up in all manner of ghoulish costumes and noisily paraded around the neighbourhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.

The Harry Potter books and films have made it popular to talk about witches, wizards and spells. Yet I’m not sure we should celebrate a festival of darkness.  You may reply, "But we only do this in fun...we don't practice witchcraft.  The practice of “trick or treat” is a mystery to me – why is it on 364 days of the year we tell our children not to talk to strangers but on 31 Oct its OK to walk the streets knocking on doors dressed in our scariest costume and instilling fear into many elderly people in the process!

Surely we need to be aware of what we are exposing our children too, the world of demons and evil is only too real and the darker side of life is not to be taken lightly. Many churches across the UK and here in Chester are holding a “Light Party” on Monday evening. ‘If you're off to a light party, then the sort of thing you can expect would be singing, games, crafts, food, and learning more about Jesus, who said, "I am the light of the world."  Check out the Hoole Baptist Church Facebook page for more info…