by Nicole Cameron
It’s tip toeing ever so slowly into our culture. It’s not long now. It’s slowly creeping up on us, as plastic orange pumpkins and ghoulish masks will soon start to make their way onto retailer’s shelves. It’s time to weigh up this “tricky” tradition – how do we navigate our children through Halloween in a Christ-honouring way? For starters, it’s useful to know how this event made it onto the calendar in the first place.
A cosy winter ahead? Not so much.
Once upon a time, way back when, a tribe of people dominated Britain. They had a host of different celebrations that came with the seasons. Celebrations for summer, for winter, autumn and spring. Preparing for winter was’nt quite as fun as it is for us who buy our beanies and wellies and stock pile on gas and soup. It stirs excitement in us to get ready for winter. But for them, a cosy winter ahead? Not so much. They harvested the fields and slaughtered animals who couldn’t survive the winter. It was about preparing to survive.
Along with survival tactics they also had beliefs about the seasons. For them, the winter season marked the raising of dead spirits to walk among the living- it was the season of ghosts. These spirits had to be treated with gifts, and if you didn’t, the spirits would trick – or treat if you behaved according to the plan. Superstition gave rise to all sorts of traditions – wearing grotesque costumes to ward off wandering ghosts, or carving eerie faces into root vegetables and then lighting candles inside them. Starting to sound familiar?
When Halloweeen met Christianity
As Christianity spread across Europe in the first century, new converts set aside their former pagan spiritism. However, with family and cultural influences being as powerful then as they are now, it wasn’t long before these customs became major stumbling blocks to faith. The church’s combat plan: move Christian holidays to directly co-incide with pagan festivals. And so that is how All Saints Day, a day set aside in remembrance of martyrs of the faith, came to be on 1 November, and the night before this holiday, “All Hallows Eve” gradually got abbreviated to “Hallow-e’en” and then Halloween as we know it, mixed with a good dose of Christian symbolism.
When the tradition reached American shores with British immigrants in the late nineteenth century, it had gathered momentum as an opportunity for revelry. The mischievous aspect of the holiday attracted the younger folk; and of course Hollywood didn’t waste any time in getting on the bandwagon and characterising all sorts of demons, monsters, vampires, werewolves to horrify the mind. Charming.
For years South Africans remained blissfully unaffected by this annual event that surely does not improve the mind in any way, but certainly promises a lot of money to retailers. But in the last decade or so, Halloween has been released from the confines of American television into our shops, schools and neighbourhoods.
Leaving Christian parents in a quandary.
Need help? See some thoughts on: What the *hell* do we do with Halloween?