Halloween is officially big business – £315m worth according to a report in today’s Times newspaper. Last year spending went up by 19% and this year Sainsbury’s and Asda each hope to sell 500,000 costumes. One of the reasons for this success is that the timing, half way between the summer holidays and Christmas, makes for a great excuse for a party (from a consumer’s point of view) or a profit (from a retail point of view). Interestingly, I don’t hear many satanists, wiccans or occult groups complaining about the commercialisation of Halloween.
You may already be aware that this night is “All Hallows Eve”, or the evening before All Saints Day when we remember all those who have lived for Christ. So what to make of the dressing up, the grotesque costumes/fake blood and all the trappings of what looks like a celebration of all that is evil? I must confess, my natural reaction is to avoid it like the plague. We ignored the timid knocks on the door tonight and, in a stunning celebration of the banalities of life, went to Tesco’s to do the weekly shop. It was surprisingly busy – perhaps lots of people were avoiding Halloween parties.
Then I came across a post by Bryan Owen, Celebrating Halloween as Faithful Christian Witness. He cites a post by Rev. Shannon Johnston in which he writes:
Halloween is the time when Christians proclaim and celebrate the fact that Satan and the occult have no power over us and cannot disrupt our relationship with our Lord and Redeemer, as long as we live faithfully to Christ. We show this by making fun of such pretenders, lampooning them in their face.
Whilst acknowledging that occult groups and pseudo spiritualists do use this evening to celebrate dark spiritual powers, the Christian celebration of the defeat of evil through the resurrection of Christ predates the rising interest over the last few centuries of a celebration of the occult. So how to seize back the Christian meaning from this now mostly commercial orgy of pumpkins and dodgy costumes? The huge popularity among many non church going parents of events run by church groups for children around the themes of light shows that not everyone wants to celebrate ‘the dark side’. Our church ran one. These events are a celebration of the triumph of light over darkness.
And what to make of ‘trick or treat-ers’? Bryan points to this beautiful alternative to being a grouch and ignoring the knock on the door.
Photo: Pete Prodoehl on Flickr