Halloween and the church: FAQs

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The following questions might be useful as you plan your Light Party

Should I be concerned that Halloween means children are getting involved with occult practices?

Much of Halloween’s history is Christian. The name itself – shortened from All Hallows’ Eve – makes the link between Halloween and All Hallows very clear. From a Christian perspective, Halloween is the first chapter in the story that ends with All Saints’ Day. At Halloween, we confront our fear of death and darkness.

Children will do what they always do when working out the big issues of life: play. At Halloween, we unpack all the standard bogeymen of childhood fairy tales – witches, ghosts, skeletons and vampires – and confront them. We acknowledge that, yes, evil exists and the world is scary and dangerous, and, yes, someday we will all die. And then, on All Saints’ Day, we hear the second half of the story – that death is not the end, that on the other side of fear is victory and that we do not become ghosts or skeletons when we die but spend eternity with Jesus, with new life stronger than death.

A child dressing up as a witch doesn’t mean that they are interested in the occult. They are simply working out, through play, what good and evil are, and how to gain control of their own good and evil impulses. Think about when you’ve worked with children – have you ever seen a pretend game where the good guys lose? If a group of children act out the story of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the child who plays the White Witch will more often than not rejoice with the others at Aslan’s victory!

How can my Light Party show the Christian vision of Halloween/All Saints’ Day?

There are many creative ways to do this, and we would encourage you to come up with something you feel confident in delivering. The answers to the following questions may help guide your thinking:

Where do we begin and end?

The premise of the festival is the transition from darkness to light. How will your celebration reflect that? Will you start in the dark and move into a light-filled place, as you tell the story of God’s triumph over sin and death? Will you start with Bible stories, moving from the darkness of Adam and Eve’s sin to the light of Jesus’ coming?

Will you revive old Christian traditions around Halloween, or create new ones?

Many of the secular aspects of Halloween have their origins in Christianity. Trick-or-treating began in the British Isles with children going from door to door singing for ‘soul cakes’ to commemorate the dead. (You can find the ‘Soul cake’ song on YouTube.) The tradition of carving a lantern (to scare away the devil) also came from Christianity – this time in Ireland.

If you have a dramatic movement from darkness to light in your celebration, children will have a lot of excitement to work off, so why not have them run around different parts of your space asking for soul cakes, or have a piñata filled with sweets. Doughnuts are also a traditional Christian Halloween treat – the circle represents eternity. You could buy plain doughnuts (or make your own) and encourage children to decorate them.

How will you make this a pastoral opportunity?

Don’t be afraid of Halloween. Halloween is an ancient part of the Christian calendar. Its modern revival may be tinged with American commercialism and concerns about the occult, but it is part of our history and can be joyfully celebrated.

Remember, though, that to celebrate it richly and deeply children need a chance to confront the darkness as well as celebrate the light. Christian educator Gretchen Wolff Pritchard comments, ‘Christians, of all people, should be able to admit that, yes, there most certainly are monsters under the bed … The world is a scary place. Our life is not merely a journey in which we may sometimes get tired or lost or discouraged; it is a dangerous venture through a war zone, in which we may be attacked, ambushed, or tempted to join the Enemy’s side; in which we may be assigned to missions calling for all the courage and intelligence we can muster. And in that cosmic battle, we have by our side the unlikely superhero from Nazareth, the meek-and-mild carpenter who proved to be stronger than sin, stronger than death; who by his courage and loyalty has faced and defeated the Enemy, and who invites us, and empowers us, to follow him through the darkness to the final victory, with the saints who “nobly fought of old”.’

With lots of ideas for games, crafts and activities, as well as expert advice and top tips, this pack takes all the hassle out of planning your Light Party!
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