Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween post, 2005

Last year I didnt' have much to say about Halloween. I linked to Josh Claybourn's brief remarks, short and sweet.

This year, via ilona, I link to the Christian History Institute, Issue #94, The Hijacking of Hallow's Eve. A history of the observance and corruption of All Hallows Eve ends with a personal statement.

We at Christian History Institute mourn the loss (in many of our Protestant churches at least) of any meaningful celebration of the earlier observance of Hallow's Eve. Our mission is to remind the Body of Christ of our heritage, and surely a day a year to recall the great leaders and martyrs of the faith is one small way to celebrate how God has worked across the ages, surely more important than encouraging kids to gorge themselves on candy.

It's one thing to complain, another to do something. We have prepared a new series of video programs, "Children's Heroes from Christian History." These would serve well for a "Hallow's Eve" gathering for kids as an alternative to Halloween. Besides, it would be better for their teeth.

There is also input from the Orthodox root of the faith.
From an Orthodox Christian point of view, participation in these practices at any level is impossible and idolatrous, a genuine betrayal of our God and our holy Faith. For if we participate in the ritual activity of imitating the dead by dressing up in their attire or by wandering about in the dark, or by begging with them, then we have willfully sought fellowship with the dead, whose lord is not Samhain, as the Celts believed, but Satan, the Evil One who stands against God. Further, if we submit to the dialogue of "trick or treat," we make our offering not to innocent children, but rather to Samhain, the lord of Death whom they have come to serve as imitators of the dead, wandering in the dark of night.

Yesterday Fiona Ritchey told about the connection of Halloween with the old Celtic tradition called Samhain (pron: Sow-een). Listeners to NPR know her program The Thistle & Shamrock.
On Samhain night, our October 31st, the veil between this world and next was believed to be at its thinnest, allowing living to communicate with ancestors. The ancients had no dread of spirits. Dead were encouraged to visit the living, in the hopes that they would come and restore memories, or pass on meanings of ancient customs. So lanterns were placed in windows to guide wandering souls, and food was left at the table for any visitors from the spirit world. When Christianity spread throughout Scotland, Ireland and Wales where this ancient culture still prevailed, it didn't so much replace the ancient ways as absorb them. So in the 8th century the festival of Samhain was re-framed as the Feast of All Saints, with the similar purpose of honoring the dead. Even since the dawn of the Christian era, the ancient beliefs surrounding this supernatural time of year have been preserved, the old Celtic traditions still followed on eve of All Saints, or All Hallows Eve: Halloween.
Modern Christian Evangelicals head the list of groups shunning Halloween as an evil manifestation of forces from the spiritual dark side but I think there are more serious threats to the faith than Halloween. Mega-churches come to mind whose membership is harvested from smaller "feeder" churches in which people are more likely to be held accountable for their behavior. Pop writing comes to mind which offers feel-good religion and cheap grace. But I don't want Halloween to be the occasion that I pick a fight with anybody. I'm already at the edge of enough people's barely-tolerable lists.

1 comment:

ilona said...

I have less of a quibble with Mega-church than with Halloween, but I can see the connection between the two. Both being result of an accomodation of the surrounding culture.
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People, even with opposing views, probably like you better than you realize, Hoots.