01 November 2011

Trick or Treat

I'm not sure how to approach Halloween.    Is it just good fun for the kids?   Or is it an Americanism that needs to be discouraged?   Or ought it be respected for being the evening before All Saints' Day (that is, All Hallows’ Eve)?   All Saints' Day is a time for honouring the Saints and praying for the recently departed.   Apparently it was designated as such in the eighth century, by Pope Gregory III (although it is possible that he grafted this on to pre-existing festivals marking the approach of winter, such as the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain).   But the religious side of it apparently wasn't part of the Protestant tradition in England (they thought it was "popish").  Growing up as a Methodist, it just wasn't on the calendar.  I read, however, that the tradition was maintained in Scotland, and it is certainly now upheld in the Uniting Church.  And the lectionary reading for All Saints' Day includes a passage from Revelations (7:  9 - 17).  It's not often that the drama and visions of Revelations make it on to the lectionary, but seemingly the compilers take the view that on this day a bit of drama is OK!  (I need to add that my research has been fairly limited and if my understanding is incorrect, then I stand ready to be corrected).
Be that as it may, I don't think the children who go to some trouble to dress up and arrive on our door step crying "trick or treat" have any idea that it may have any form of religious significance (whereas even today, hopefully, they have some knowledge of the role of Christmas and Easter in the Church's calendar).  I suppose I could put a leaflet along with the sweets  into their pumpkin-shaped buckets seeking to explain the issues?    But no, it's a challenge in itself to be stocked up with sweets without going the extra mile.
At least in our area, the arrangements are civilised!   Each year, one of the neighbours puts a note into our letterbox inviting us to indicate our willingness to participate in the trick or treating by displaying the enclosed balloon on our gate, and specifying that the hours are from 4 to 6 pm.  If I could work out which group was responsible for the note, we would have doubled their sweet quota.   This year, we lost count of how many groups and children we had - perhaps 50 or 60 children in total.

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