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Halloween is a call to be playful
pastor corner

By Pastor Devin Strong, Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church.

For centuries, in the Christian tradition as well as culturally, All Saints Day was a big holiday held specifically on Nov. 1 to celebrate the lives of those who had died throughout the year — a sort of churchwide funeral service. Today, at least in the Lutheran tradition, the holiday is celebrated on the Sunday nearest to Nov. 1 and is known as All Saints Sunday. 

Sometime in the Middle Ages, All Hallows Eve began to be celebrated on the eve before All Saints Day and was believed to be the time when ghosts and goblins made their frightening annual appearances. It makes me wonder if All Hallows Eve wasn’t conjured up because folks needed a way to let off some steam before the next day’s sad and somber service.

Eventually, All Hallows Eve morphed into Halloween (“hallow” means saint, or holy person, and “een” is a contraction of “eve”, or the evening before) and has become a huge national holiday. I find it interesting that the desire to make it even “bigger and better” has grown exponentially just during the expanse of my lifetime. This year, it’s predicted that Americans will spend $10 billion dollars on Halloween candy, decorations and costumes, with a 20 percent increase expected every subsequent year, making it second only to how much Americans spend on Christmas. For various reasons, some Christians refrain from celebrating Halloween, but for the vast majority, it’s considered an evening of fun and merriment that’s readily enjoyed by kids and adults alike. We all wear different “masks” on a regular basis — at work, home, with our friends etc. — yet there’s something about us that still loves putting on an actual mask and dressing up for Halloween. I wonder what the desire to disguise ourselves before going out to have a fun time really means to us?

Maybe, with the deep unrest in our world today, we’re desperate for a bit of escape. Or maybe putting on a funny or scary costume for a few hours offers us a harmless release from everyday pressures. Last year, Halloween was all but canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions but, thankfully, this year we can probably relax a bit and get back to having some much-needed Halloween fun together!

What does all of this mean from a faith perspective? When you think about it, Halloween’s an easy holiday. It’s a call to be playful! We don’t have to fix and be thankful for an extraordinary amount of food or make sure we have gifts for everyone on our lists.

All we’re asked to do is offer “random acts of kindness” – usually in the way of candy – to excited trick-or-treaters. Halloween is a community experience that brings both friends and strangers together. It’s a time when we look out for one another. Maybe this simple holiday is urging us to find more casual opportunities throughout the year – other than well-planned for calendar holidays – for respite, rest and play. Maybe we can create new occasions to get out of our regular roles for a spell and have some “Halloween fun” together just as we are, without all the masks and costumes.

Perhaps, if we occasionally give ourselves permission to put on imaginary “playful masks” and step away from life’s burdens and responsibilities, we’ll find our Halloween playfulness is right there for us to enjoy anytime throughout the year!

God loves you, and so do I!

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