Teaching our members the importance of Halloween can enhance their day and teach lessons of faith and sacrifice.  These are the trow meaning of Halloween.

Yesterday, I found a doll that I received at Christmas when I was in the fourth or fifth grade.  It was a “walking doll,” stuck back in a closet, I barely use.  These specialty dolls would walk if you held their hand and moved them in exactly the right way.

Walking dolls were the rage that year and every little girl got one.  Even though I was getting too old for dolls, I love it and I’ve kept it in the top of a closet for about 55 years.  She is a mess and certainly won’t ever be a sell-able item in years to come.

A good friend collected marbles all during his childhood.  Today, they are valuable collectibles.  However, his parents decided that these toys belonged to them–not him.  In fact, without consulting him, they gave the marble treasure to his sister.

All Saints’ Day costumes

All of us have special memories from our childhood.  Some are gifts and toys.  Most of them revolve about special days and events.  For me Halloween was one of those.  I grew up in the days that parents didn’t buy costumes.  All the children in the neighborhood got together and we made our own dress-up attire.  The guys wore their baseball uniforms or wore an eye batch and their older sister’s white blouse with their dad’s over-sized pants and became pirates.  The less creative girls, like me, were usually gypsies.

The candy was the super star of the day.  We cared little about what the day meant.  Yet, we loved getting that candy from neighbors.  By the time my children were at the trick-or-treat stage, creepy crawlers had moved onto the scenes because parents had started to manage the day and the event.  One home in our neighborhood was decorated.   Sears always had costume pajamas that I purchased for the children.  My daughter was always an angel.

All Saints’ Day light

In reality, Halloween is a transliteration of the two words Hallowed Eve or Holy Eve.  October 31 is the day before one of the most holy days of the Christian calendar, All Saints Day. On November 1, the church in the 1800’s took the day to remember saints who have lived and died to insure the spread of the good news of Christ’s death and God’s redeeming love.

I am often asked what I think about Halloween.  In short, I don’t celebrate the day.  However, I hate that playing with evil and a glorification of Satan has overtaken a holy time of remembrance.  Goulds and skeletons which celebrate death and slaughter are freely greeted.  Yet, the holy Babe who was laid in a manger and Holy Week are being outlawed.  After all, remembering God’s sacrificial love is much more dangerous to society than blatant evil.

Could it be that the Church has given away another holy time?  How many of us celebrate November 1, All Saints Day?  Wouldn’t a renewal of this holiday by the Church at least off set for Christians a holiday gone bad?

The mentally challenged community loves Halloween and they are encouraged by the professionals who work with them to celebrate the day in a big way.  Therefore, we should be teaching them the roots and truth behind this day of Christian remembrance.  This will help.

About 1400 years ago, the Roman Catholic Church and the Byzantine (Greek Orthodox) Church unofficially adopted a fun celebration the day before All Saints’ Feast Day.  The day became known as All Hallow’s Eve or Halloween.

The purpose  of this time was to mock evil.  Dressing up like skeletons and wearing death masks, people–young and old–paraded through the streets and celebrated our freedom from evil through the sacrifice of Jesus.

After studying the subject, it appears that this All Hallow’s Eve  commemoration sprang up as an informal celebration.  Later, known as Halloween, the day formed from a joyful expression rising from the villagers and common folk who wanted to express in a playful and joy-filled way their release from sin and fear.

Other than Resurrection Day, All Saints’ Day is the most holy day within the Liturgical Calendar.  It started within the eastern (Byzantine) and western (Roman Catholic) churches, sometime in the early 600’s.

The foundation of the celebration came from the tremendous persecution Christians experienced in the early days of the church.  Torture and death under the Roman Empire had run rampant for the early believers.  Rome’s emperors needed a scape goat to explain the decline of the empire.  Torturing Christians became a reflective entertainment for the masses.  It was a distraction from the woes the Roman citizens were experiencing.  As a result, All Saints Day was a holy day of honoring these martyrs.  Christians still living expressed their love and gratitude for the sacrifices and deaths of the early Christians.

The scriptural bases was the New Testament teaching that those Christians who have died pray for us who are still alive, interceding before the Father.  This is not a day to worship the saints but to venerate and acknowledge their past, present and future contributions to the growth of all Christians, by remembering their prayers and faithfulness.  At first it was time of feasting to remember the martyrs.  Later, the expressions of joy were extended to all saints, living and dead.  Within the Roman Catholic Church, this celebration is focused on men and women who have been canonized as saints.  Most Protestants dropped the celebration of All Saints Day, even though they have clung to the celebration of Halloween.

In the 600’s, the day before All Saints Day (Halloween) became a time to remember the poor.  Dressed in their evil-mocking costumes and masks, the poor would visit the homes of their more prosperous neighbors.  The poor would be given sweet buns to carry back to their families.  It appears that the custom grew from the fact that the more prosperous neighbors wanted to be sure that the entire community would have enough provision to celebrate All Saints’ Day.  This wasn’t a custom glorifying begging but of blessing others with gifts.  The giving of sweets was an expression of love by the Church, desiring that all people would share in God’s gracious provision on this holy day.  As the custom grew, it playfully became known as trick-or-treat.

Slowly, over the 1500 years that have elapsed, the customs of dressing up and receiving sweet treats from neighbors has stuck.  Sadly, the original meaning of the celebration has been long forgotten, even by Christians.  In fact, within Protestant traditions, the day is more and more rejected as witchcraft, wicca and other evil religious orders have adopted the day as a time of glorification of evil, rather than mocking.

Too often within the traditions of the Church, mocking evil becomes glorification.  Christian feast days–like Christmas and Resurrection Day–become an excuse for drunkenness and gluttony.  Perhaps Halloween–the day before a time of most holy remembrance–should not be ignored by Christian.  Perhaps it should become a wake-up call.  While we are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, our Adamic nature lurks concealed by religious zeal ready to pounce and pervert even those things which are most holy in our lives.

When does mocking evil become glorification?  It isn’t merely the day of Halloween that I struggle.  I wrestle with it every day.  Maybe we need to learn to respect and avoid the enemy of our souls.  The Bible tells us to flee from evil rather than try to overcome evil in our own strength.  Jesus’ death releases us from the fear of death and hell; it doesn’t give us license to flirt with sin.

In the meantime, I want to bless the children in my neighborhood with sweet treats.  I will pray for them, asking God that they too will become part of the mystical body of Christ, which is the Church.