October 2012

Dear parish family,

Now that it is October and the holiday season begins to come upon us, beginning with Halloween, I thought I would share something that is very close to my heart, which is keeping our festivals and not allowing the culture to dictate them to us. I wrote about this last year, but thought I would bring it up again. The reason for this is that I checked on “Halloween” on the internet and saw two results right next to each other. One said, “why Christians should celebrate Halloween”, and the other said, “why Christians should not celebrate Halloween”…no wonder we are confused.

Last year, Katie mentioned to me that her friend (who was in her kindergarten class) told her that we should not be celebrating Halloween. Although I believed that I already knew the answer, I asked Katie to explain why that was so. Katie then told me that her friend said that it was a day that “is about the devil”. Our conversation continued for some time, in which I told her that we do not celebrate the devil on Halloween, but there are many Christians out there who believe that is what the holiday is about. And, because of that, their Christian conscience cannot (rightly so) condone any holiday that celebrates the devil or some otherwise pagan ritual. This actually points to the larger issue that I would like to address, but in so doing a very brief explanation of the origin of Halloween is necessary.

The origin of the holiday can be traced back to the Celtic people of the British Isles. For them, November 1st (sound familiar? It should) was the end of the harvest; therefore, the beginning of their new year as well as the beginning of winter. A part of the pagan festival was the belief that the dead came back and were able to somehow interact with the living, hence, the reason why so many Christians today believe that our contemporary Halloween observance is about death and other ghoulish things.

But there is something we should know. As with other key holy days (from which we get the word holiday), the Church, in accordance with the mission to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), this pagan festival was taken captive to be used for Christian ends. The pagan holy day of Samhain was converted into the Christian holy day of All Saints…and there’s the reference to November 1st that we are used to. The All Saints holy day was used to commemorate the saints of God and therefore to remember the words of Hebrews: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Our Christian observance of Halloween is actually “All Hallows Eve”. Or to put it differently, it is All Saints Eve, just as we have Christmas Eve or the Easter Vigil. In other words, it was Christianized and used as a tool in the conversion of the culture. Therefore, it is ironic that many Christians are retreating from Halloween because of the satanic or pagan nature of today’s Halloween.

There can be only one explanation for this: that the culture has taken back the holiday that the Church had once taken for worship of the God of the universe in order to convert the culture. For this, the Church has only itself to blame because we have been unable to defend our holy day against the degeneration back into paganism that we now see. Many Christians do not know this history, so they (understandably) undermine the day. We must keep in mind that they do this because there is plenty of evidence to support their objections…all they need to do is look around. Meanwhile, those who know better offer precious little to dissuade them from the opinion that it is a pagan observance. And by so doing, we illustrate that it is the culture that has influenced the church rather than the other way around. The cloud of witnesses that we remember on All Saints Day worked very hard to convert the culture by means such as this only to have us fall back on our laurels and see the trend reverse.

Celebrating Halloween is not wrong…it is what we are supposed to be doing. The question is…as with all things…do we use our celebrations to glorify the King or the serpent? If there is enough interest in finding out how to stand out as Christians while still celebrating Halloween, we might just be able to do something about this.

Let’s make it real by considering these things together with your family…

  • The word “hallow” means “to make holy” or “to honor as holy.” How can you keep Halloween a holy day?
  • Who are the people that have helped you grow in faith? How might you honor them on All Saints’ Day (November 1)?
  • Are there Christian history heroes you find inspiring? Who and why?
  • Are there parts of Halloween that you find scary? Think about this verse: “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (I John 4:4) How could this verse give you comfort if you are afraid of any dark beliefs?
  • How can you decide what Halloween activities, decorations, and costumes honor God and which do not?

In Christ,
Fr. Joe+

Permanent link to this article: http://www.saintalbans.org/2012/10/11/october-2012-2/

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