Halloween and the reason for the season

Go shopping at this time of year and it’s hard to avoid Halloween. Over the last generation it’s become a major commercial festival; last year UK consumers spent around £320 million on it.

Over the years the Christian response to Halloween has been varied. Many Christians want nothing to do with it. They argue that there is nothing to celebrate in darkness, witches, horror and devils. Christian parents find themselves torn by ‘everyone else’s children’ enjoying dressing up, trick or treating and eating buckets of sweets. Lots of churches now run light parties to give children and young people a more positive and life-giving message at Halloween. This year we are giving people the choice of a fantastic light party at Christ Church Woking or a big community event in Old Woking. We hope to run something ourselves next year.

I’ve been talking to SMOB Youth Minister Dave Doran, who thinks we may be missing a trick by not returning to our roots. After all, Halloween is a festival which has a long history in the Christian calendar: All Hallow’s Eve (or All Saints’ Eve), the night before All Saints’ Day. Allhallowtide is a three-day festival which goes back well over a thousand years, covering All Saints’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. On those days we remember the dead, martyrs, saints and the ‘faithful departed’.

Just as churches have a lot to say about light and positivity, we also have fantastic stories to tell about those who have gone to glory before us. If you think the people of SMOB are great, imagine being in a church filled with all of them from 1907 to the present day! I think we would be bowled over by everything God has done among us.
There would also be all sorts of ‘random’ connections. My grandparents spent many holidays in the 1950s and 60s smuggling Bibles to Christians in Franco’s Spain. I feel sure there will be a connection to the evangelical churches in Spain today, and thus to our mission partners the Yanez family in Malaga. Of course, in God’s economy there are is no randomness, no coincidence. He has amazing plans and a big picture for all of our lives.

Can I encourage you, then, to remember the faithful departed this Halloween and All Saints’ Day (or maybe we could even reclaim the name ‘Allhallowtide’)? Let’s be intentional about thanking God for those who have gone before us and asking the Holy Spirit to stir up the same gifts in his people today. That way we won’t just be responding defensively to the darkness we see around us; we won’t even be painting a brighter and more positive picture; we’ll be telling our own powerful story and recovering the reason for the season.

Mark Wallace, 11/10/2018