Reinventing Halloween and All Saints Day


My grandson dressed up as a mad scientist for Halloween

Children look forward to dressing up in costumes and joining their friends to go from house to house, saying trick-or treat, and collecting candy on Halloween. Its lots of fun chaperoned by responsible adults. It’s a way to build our courage by poking fun at scary things rather than being afraid or even controlled by them. That’s good! Furthermore, we have a tendency to take ourselves too seriously. Halloween reminds us to lighten up a bit.

Halloween is a contraction of “All Hallows Eve” or “holy evening” which has its roots in the ancient Christian three-day observance of “All-hallow-tide” the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers.

The trick-or-treat part appears to be rooted in a folk belief that some departed spirits like to play harmless pranks on Halloween. Carving pumpkins, giving candied apples, and other treats also appears to be related to the tradition of not eating meat during the three-day observance of “All-hallow-tide.” All Saints Day celebrations follow Halloween in many parts of the world but unfortunately only Halloween gets much attention in our country.

All Saints Day is a major holiday in the Philippines where I and my family once lived. People bring lots of candles, food, and music to their family burial plots in the cemeteries. Prayers and blessings are said. People camp out in the cemetery through the night and spend the whole next day visiting with relatives and neighbors. They bring photos of loved ones who have died and tell lots of stories in memory of them. There’s a sense that their dead ancestors’ spirits are there with them. It’s a big multi-generational party.

How can we revive this in our culture? Dressing up in costumes and going trick-or-treating pales in comparison. Some churches organize a “Saint Fest” party for the whole family on Halloween. Wouldn’t it be great if we’d follow this with a worship service and intergenerational fellowship meal our church cemeteries on All Saints Day? We could remember our loved ones who passed away. We could tell stories about the struggles, victories, and defeats of past generations in our families and our churches. We are who we are because of who they were—saints and sinners—ordinary people with strengths and weaknesses who passed their faith down to us.

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