A Christian Response to Halloween

So, recently we’ve been involved with a process of conscious and deliberate willingness to seek the Divine in every aspect of life, and see God as truly present in all things. This was the starting point for an experiment in a Halloween Liturgy, an exploration of death, ancestors and limnal times from a Christian perspective.

The event was fairly unstructured, and in the true spirit of an exploration, we were all very willing to relax and see where the conversations took us. In fact, even what structure had been planned showed a strong resistance to our original ideas. Nic had taken a large pumpkin and carved it with a cross instead of a traditional jack o-lantern face, intending it as a strong icon of faith. But time, moisture and heat had prevailed over this lofty aim, and by the time we were all gathered the icon had decayed into a soggy and mis-shapen mess, with truly astounding levels of mold and putrescence inside. From a philosophical perspective, it became even more fitting for the evening as a sobering reminder of mortality and the fleeting transience of existence.

Halloween is an intriguing concept. As with most holidays, it is a curious amalgam of various traditions from various cultures, all fairly randomly squashed into an arbitrarily convenient date. But the two guiding principles are remembering the dead, and thanksgiving for the harvest festival.

The festivals of All Souls and All Saints which immediately follow Halloween in the traditional Church calendar are specific remembrances for those who have died, and of our hope of eternal life. These concepts are not terribly far removed from veneration of ancestors, of honouring family and community who have passed on, but who worked to build the society and families that we enjoy. Their labours and lives have benefitted us immeasurably, and it is fitting that we should honour them for this. In a Christian context, we say that God works through us. If we accept that our talents are blessings and gifts from God, then it is His work through others which we honour and praise. We do not honour the apostle Paul for his humanity, we honour the way in which he allowed God to work through his life. We honour a willingness to give himself mightily to the service of God.

It was peculiar in an African context to celebrate a harvest festival in October/November, as it is spring here. But, in keeping with the amalgamated nature of these things, it is a convenient spot on the calendar, so we’ll work with what we’ve got. Our celebration of the harvest took the form of a Eucharist consisting of apple cider and popcorn, which took me on a curious inward reflection on whether we were not in fact making a mockery of the sacrament. My conclusion was that it was in fact no less appropriate to thank God for his bounty and grace with these harvest offerings as it would have been with the more traditional wine and bread. For again, it is not the works of Man which brought forth the fruits of the Earth, but the grace and blessings of God. All things come from Thee, and of Thine own do we give unto Thee – and the body and blood of Jesus is as present in any other aspect of the world as it is in the standard Lord’s Supper fare. Our aim with any Eucharist is to have communion with our fellows and give thanks together for the blessings and grace of God in our lives.

With that in mind, a blessed limnal season to you all.

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