Friday, 31 October 2014

Why Celebrate Halloween in a 'Catholic' School?

Three Alternative Ways at Looking at Death
      
      a. The Egyptians
      Perhaps the most famous tombs in the world are the pyramids built for the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt between 2630 – 2611 BC. The Pharaohs didn’t have the healthiest way of looking at death. Believing themselves to be gods they not only were entombed themselves, after death, but also with many of their servants, slaves and riches. Many Israelites, enslaved to build the pyramids, were badly injured or died during the building process and so these tombs became symbols of death and oppression. 
      
      b. The Celts
      Leaping forward a few hundred years and we find the Celtic tribes of Europe whose culture grew from their experience of the land and nature. Their new year was what we calculate as the 1st November when the life giving harvest was gathered and the deadly cold winter started to set in. The feast of Samhain was their new years eve, which they believed to be a time where the dead and living would mix in this world. To scare off unfriendly ghosts they often dressed as ghosts themselves to confuse them.
      
      c. The Christians
      Pope Gregory III (731-741) introduced the current format for the feasts of All Saints and All Souls Days as Christianity continued to spread through Britain and many of the Celtic celebrations were given a new focus through the eyes of faith. Rather than being fearful of death, the Church wanted to emphasise Christ’s power over sin and death. The word ‘hallowed’ used in the prayer that Jesus gave us, the ‘Our Father’, means to make holy. The feast of All Saints was thus called All-hallows with the evening before named All-hallows eve and so the feast of Halloween emerged. At the end of the harvesting season it was a time of celebration where people dressed as ghosts or devils to mock the power of evil & celebrate God's power over evil in Jesus’s death and resurrection. They might also dress up as saints and strut around as examples of people who truly new God’s power in their lives.

Halloween Today
If your faith isn't central to your life and the Church no longer offers meaning for you - other things will fill the gap. St Valentines Day dropped the Saint for commercial interests, Christmas becomes Winter Fest & Easter becomes chocolate centred rather than the new life symbolised in the egg. For many reasons, perhaps even relating to horror movies and books or the opportunity to sell scary costumes, for some people Halloween has become more of a celebration of evil rather than a celebration of God's power over evil. For other people, Halloween has no meaning other than a time to have fun. You can discover an animated interpretation of the history of Halloween at the following link: http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween

What can we do?
One path is to abandon ship and have nothing to do with Halloween; closing the curtains and hiding yourself away when the trick or treaters come a calling? You can also embrace some people's celebration that evil rules? There’s a big difference between going to your neighbours house with your family, knowing that your trick or treating will be welcomed, compared with walking around with friends to random houses and knocking on the doors of vulnerable people. In choosing your costume it makes a big difference to choose one that causes fear rather than one that is fun and makes people laugh. There are always choices to make and this year St Clare’s School is offering another path.

From All-hallows to Halloween and Back…
At St Clare’s we’re reclaiming the feast of All-hallows as a celebration of the power of God over death & evil. To make fun of the spooks, devils & skeletons by dancing or even strutting our stuff dressed as a saint – we’ll be having fun within the safety of the school community. We’ll be joining thousands and thousands of Christians around the world who celebrate this as a feast with a life giving meaning. Many people take off their costumes and destroy them at the end of the night to symbolise God’s power over them but in the spirit of recycling perhaps you could pull your tongue out at the costume instead? We all have choices to make but choosing to make others laugh rather than cry, to celebrate God's power lived through the saints and keeping safe is a great way to draw a line in the sand and say, "This is our feast... we're taking it back!"

God bless,

Fr David.

You can find some alternative arguments via the two following links but be aware of external advertising on this website:

Six Reasons Why Halloween is Far From Harmless

Six Reasons Why We Should Celebrate Halloween