I think it no accident that Halloween is scheduled for Autumn.
The beauty of trees showing forth their fall colors reminds us that we are headed into the long, solitary winter. Autumn is a season wherein it isn’t hard to think about death and dying. Crops are finished, harvest is upon us, the weather is getting cooler, and daylight is growing shorter.
In this season it is easy to draw parallels to life’s cycles and we eventually find ourselves in the “autumn of life,” headed toward our eventual death and whatever lies beyond for each of us. Primal culture used this season to mock death with rituals that including masquerading as ghosts and goblins. After the Christianization of Europe, the church developed All Saints Day to somewhat redeem this habit. The celebration in the church was designed to redirect people to think about those who had died in service of the Lord, the people we consider saints, or “Hallowed ones” [Holy ones]. It was customary to begin celebrating any holy day on the evening before, as the day began conceptually at sundown of the previous day. So “All Hallowed’s Day” was preceded by “All Hallowed’s Evening”, shortened into “Hallow E’en,” or as we now say it “Halloween.”
There are always those who assert that this is a devilish holiday, and surely there are groups who practice dark and perhaps even wicked things on Halloween, but it also a time for people of faith to practice hospitality.
I served a church in Lee County, Virginia where about 400 children would come to town (the population of the town was only 900), and “trick or treat” in our neighborhood. My wife was always excited to meet this crowd with enough treat bags for each one. We were impressed that each child, unprompted, would respond to our treats with a well-rehearsed “Thank you.” One year I even invited the youth group to join us on the porch, as our house faced Main Street, and be part of the giving.
There are holidays I enjoy more than Halloween, but it has come to mark a remembrance that even as autumn pulls our thoughts toward the end of life, we have joy in knowing that the end is only a beginning for people of faith. So, let the darkness come, and even death’s cold grip, but there is more beyond it for people of faith. A glory greater than autumn’s leaves and harvest: Life eternal in heaven with God.