You may have seen recent reports in the media about ‘creepy clowns’ appearing in many places around the world causing concern to some. There is much speculation as to what this is all about. One report that I heard suggested that there may be a link with the approach of Halloween and that we are therefore likely to see more of these ‘clowns’ as Halloween approaches.

In this context, it is appropriate to reflect on the meaning of Halloween. Modern day Halloween celebrations focus on activities such as trick-or-treating, playing pranks, the use of disguises, attending costume parties, decorating pumpkins and carving them into lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, the use of lanterns, telling scary stories and watching horror films. For many, it is just something that has ‘always been done’ and is a lot of fun.

It is widely believed that many Halloween traditions originated from Celtic harvest festivals which had pagan roots. This festival was Christianised as Halloween. In the Christian liturgical calendar, churches celebrate two main festivals at the beginning of November; All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. All Hallows' Eve, from which the word Halloween arises, falls on 31st October each year.

The concept of All Saints Day is connected to the doctrine of The Communion of Saints. This stems from the Catholic teaching that all of God's people, in heaven, on earth, and in the state of purification (Purgatory), are spiritually connected and united. On this day therefore, we commemorate all saints, known and unknown.

All Souls’ Day directly follows All Saints' Day and is an opportunity to commemorate the faithful departed; those who have died and gone before us. It is perhaps this that lends credence to some of the ghoulish activities associated with the celebration of Halloween. All Souls’ Day purposely follows All Saint's Day in order to shift the focus from those in heaven to those in who have died, and in the Roman Catholic belief, are in Purgatory. Purgatory is believed to be the state in the afterlife where souls are purified before proceeding to heaven. This belief is also held by Orthodox as well as some Protestants Christians. On this day, the living pray for those in purgatory.

Suffice to say that in the Christian context, the celebration of Halloween is far richer and more meaningful that the ‘playful’ antics that we will see as Halloween approaches. I invite you to reflect upon this. Are we brave enough to offer this insight to those who come knocking on our doors as they go “trick-or-treating” this Halloween?

God bless
Rev Dave