Because Halloween has roots predating Christianity, many folks fear and shun it. In doing so, they lose out on a rich and storied tradition within the church itself.
The Tridium of Hallowtide traditionally runs for three days (hence the name, tri for three and dium for days). All Hallows, All Saints, and the Feast of All Saints. This often runs October 31 to November 2, but some celebrate the Feast of All Saints on the first Sunday of November.
In one tradition, names of the departed are called out, and a bell is rung after each name, recalling them to memory. This moment can be very healing, for those who are feeling their absence.
In our society, we sanitize death away, to the point where it’s too taboo to discuss, even in church among those to whom we’re told to turn, in times of distress. It’s good that, at least once a year, we can look death in the face. We can admit that it’s scary, through the costumes and skeletons we place about. And most importantly, we can laugh, remembering who conquered death forever and for all of us.
Hallowtide. It’s a time when it’s not a taboo topic to look our fears in the face. In this way, it’s healthy to embrace it. Remember, Christianity has always superimposed itself, very cleverly and very well, on older rituals that went before it, giving them a deep meaning that works within our framework. Consider Christmas, celebrated on dates of historic pagan winter festivals. Christmas, it’s the triumph of light over darkness, as the light of the world comes to walk among us (and the days finally grow longer at Winter Solstice, the perfect metaphor). The trick is to recognize the holy echo, and explain the deeper meaning.
Halloween arrives slightly after the autumnal equinox, when things are growing darker and colder in the world. During this time, the Celts believed, the veil was thinnest between this world and the next, and extra care must be taken, especially while walking in an Irish forest. What a perfect moment to examine our fears, remembering the One who lights our darkness and vanquishes fear and death itself… In Him is life… life that is the light for us… and the darkness has not overcome it.