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Across the Pastor’s Desk: Halloween has roots in the church

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Steven Woyen

Steven Woyen

 

The month of October brings with it the celebration of Halloween. Like many in my generation, we grew up watching family TV programs like “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” and when we were older we branched out into scary films like “Halloween” (whose next chapter is about to premiere in theaters this Halloween season).

The origin of Halloween has its roots in the church.  It was on Oct. 31 that Western Christians observed “All Hallows Eve,” when Christians would gather in prayer prior to Nov. 1 and remember the dead including saints (hallows), martyrs and those who have died in the past year. Indeed, the Sunday following Halloween is called All Saints Sunday when Christians remember those near and dear to us who are no longer with us and now live on that eternal shore. We light candles in worship, we place flowers in the cemeteries and we remember our loved ones and celebrate the Resurrection promise of Christ they now have.

The traditions we all know as Halloween can be traced back to Celtic and Gaelic roots.  The customs of costumes, trick-or-treating, bobbing for apples, etc. can be traced back to the British Isles and those customs naturally came to North America.

Is it true that Halloween has been carried overboard? I would say yes.  It’s not any different than our gluttony at Thanksgiving and our consumeristic zeal at Christmas. Our world wants to emphasize the extremes of holidays for the purpose of sales. The danger with our reacting to the extreme is to isolate ourselves from the world and our neighbor and our communities.

Is it appropriate for Christians to observe Halloween? As the secular holiday, you can celebrate it in moderation with your family and friends. Take the kids trick-or-treating. Go for a hayride. Have some fun. 

But I would also encourage you to take time to remember those near and dear to you who now occupy heaven. Take a moment to check on a neighbor or friend who has lost a loved one in the past year. Let them know you’re thinking about them. Attend the church of your choice on that first Sunday in November, and remember those loved ones who have been saved by Jesus Christ alone. Through no merits or works or choices on our part, Jesus died and was raised to bring humanity into eternal life especially the hallowed that have been washed in the blood of the Lamb and are now God’s saints. Trusting in this promise that only God gives, you also have a place as one of God’s hallowed saints. Until the Day of Jesus Christ, enjoy life, pass out the candy and rejoice with all of God’s saints. 

Steven Woyen is a Lutheran pastor living in Lyle. He is married to the Rev. Eileen Woyen, who serves Trinity Lutheran Church in Albert Lea.