Rector's Ramblings - October 26, 2023
Many people have forgotten (if they ever knew) the origins of the name, but October 31 has long been known as, a “Holy Night”. It’s only been “Halloween” since the mid-18th century or so. Before that it was known as “All Hallow’s Eve”, the night before All Hallow’s Day, a day we now refer to as All Saints. Historical scholars are not of one mind as to the origins of Halloween. Some say that it has always been a Christian remembrance, while others suggest it is partially a series of pagan rituals co-opted by the Church. Either way, the Church has recognized a spiritual component to this night before All Saint’s Day for a very long time.
There are many ancient customs associated with remembering the dead on the evening before All Saints including people who dressed in black and walked at night by candle and torchlight to call people to prayer for the deceased. Trick-or-Treating has its roots in England when “souling” used to take place. People would make an offering of thanksgiving for departed souls. Poor people, typically poor children would go door to door seeking the soul cakes. The offerings would be two-fold, a thanksgiving for the departed and a way to support the needy.
Costumes have several historical roots. In some places people would parade around statues of the saints unless they were too poor to have statues. Instead, people would dress up as saints and parade around that way. Other ancient practices suggest that some people dressed up so that if a spirit was looking to haunt them, they would be disguised, and the spirit wouldn’t be able to find them! Still other traditions suggest that we dress in scary costumes to ensure that we are not afraid of death or evil, but through our faith in Christ can make fun of death and evil spirits.
Whatever the roots, it is pretty safe to bet that the average kid going out trick-or-treating this week has no idea about the roots of this holiday. Our commercial holiday machine has co-opted the holiday to the point that its religious meaning is long gone. This is one of the reasons why Christ Church is once again hosting an All Hallow’s Eve Festival on Sunday night. We like to to take the opportunity to remind kids and adults about how a night of costumes and fun is also an expression of their faith (or can be!). Hope to see some of you there!
Lord, tonight we will face all that most concerns us: our fears, the shadowed places of the mind; the coming of winter darkness; the cold thin place between waking and sleep. We call to mind the powerless, the lonely, those who most fear the knock at the door; all those deceived by the world’s empty promises; all those cowed by menaces or threats. We stand with those weak in body, mind or spirit and those seduced by treats or hurt by tricks. Lord, your light shines into every darkness. You told us: pray ‘deliver us from evil’. Your Spirit gives us hope, gives us courage, a candle in the window unhurt by the wind. Amen.
A version of this Rambling appeared ten years ago this year.
Photo credits: photos used with permission via dreamstime.com subscription.