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The week that lies ahead of us, contains two rather interesting dates. The first is October 31st and the second one is November 5th. Well I'm sure most of you will recognise these dates to be Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night respectively. While neither of these "holidays" are very significant in Zimbabwe, where I live, I still would like to comment about them and shed some light on why as a Christian, I do not celebrate Halloween.
What is a holiday? - it more than a "day off" - it normally carries with it a certain significance in the case of the two holidays under discussion it does not signify a day off. There is someone to honour (Labour Day - we honour workers - or at least we should, Mother's Day, Father's Day, St. Patrick's Day etc), something to commemorate, that is remember with sadness (Holocaust, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Day of Remembrance (November 11th) Yom Kippur), and now especially in the USA September 11th has taken on a great significance) or indeed something to Celebrate - that is remember with joy and gladness (Independence Days around the world, Christmas, Easter, Pesach (Passover), Purim, Divali, Eid-ul-Fitr). Now it goes without saying that few holidays hold universal significance - with the exception of Mother's and Father's Days I cannot think of any. Christmas and Easter are of significance to Christians. Pesach, Sukkot, Purim and Hannukkah are significant to Jews, Eid-ul-Fitr is celebrated by Muslims, Divali by Hindus). While I might take an interest in the celebrations of other faiths, I certainly would not participate in them. In an increasingly Multicultural world, especially in the Western Countries, people object to the open or public displays of religious significance, especially on what is considered "public property." Hence the demand that Public Schools do not have a Nativity Play - depicting the Birth story of Jesus - or "crib scenes" on public displays. Father Christmas's (Santa Claus), reindeer, etc. are no problem as they have no religious significance. Some object to the expression "Happy Christmas" and insist on the more neutral and culturally inclusive "Season's Greetings." The message seems to be Celebrate the celebrations you want to celebrate but don't impose them on those who don't believe as you do.
So we come back to the issue of Halloween. What is its significance? What or who are we honouring, comemorating or celebrating? How did Halloween get started in the first place?
Some people might be surprised that I, a Christian, object to Halloween, after all isn't it a Christian Holiday?The word "Halloween" comes from "All Hallows Eve" that is the day before (Eve) All Saints Day (All Hallows), a day when Christians in this case Roman Catholics, comemorate the Saints - Christian martyrs and people who through their lives displayed particular Christian qualities which in their death has earned them "sainthood". However, we need to dig a bit deeper to find the real significance of Halloween. Halloween has its roots in Celtic Paganism. On October 31st, the Celtics would honor their god, Samhain (The Lord of the dead.) They believed this god had complete command over all of the darkness including that of the winter. This day, evil spirits were able to enter the world of the humans. I quote from an artical I read about Halloween - "Since the origin of Halloween started being a holiday for the dead, it continues to be that way. The Druid priests would sacrifice humans in order to keep the spirits of the dead happy. This is a hard reality to face the origins of Halloween. This means that the holiday that has been celebrated for so many years, really stems from a practice of killing others." (http://holiday.christianet.com/originofhalloween.htm )
Unlike Easter and even Christmas, whose roots are also tainted with Paganism, Halloween's main significance remains that of death, whitchcraft and the underworld. You only need to look at how people dress up for Halloween or how they may decorate their homes for the Halloween Party to see what Halloween is REALLY all about. Witches, Ghosts, Monsters, Skeletons are seen on every street (in the USA), knocking on doors and saying "trick-or-treat". The Decor may feature a spiders' web with a huge "Black Widow spider inn its centre. What is its significance - clearly DEATH. What is the colour that predominates in Halloween? Is it not BLACK?
It seems to me that people take leave of their senses at this time. Most of the year, we protect children from unnecessary fear, and tell them not to worry about ghosts, goblins and boogy men - they are not real. We will chide a child who deliberately tries to frighten younger children. Then comes Halloween and the same adults turn around and start doing the frightening - it seems to be me to be a real lack of consistency there. I think that what many people do not realise is that this whole thing instils a subconscious fear in people, especially impressionable children. Just as you would probably not let your preteen child watch "Nightmare on Elm Street" or "Friday the 13th" or similar horror movies, deliberately frightening children, in the way it is done at Halloween is, in my belief, psychologically harming. I have not done any studies, and I am not a psychologist, so perhaps I shouldn't have made the last statement, but call it a hunch if you like - that's my opinion. We are all aware that young children find it particularly difficult to draw the line between fantasy and reality. That is why they believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden and fairy tales like Cinderella. Some might say they are gullible - I'd prefer to use the term trusting. They believe that those significant adults in their lives would not lie to them about anything. My contention is that the whole of Halloween has a negative emphasis and contradicts what we believe in and speak about to our children every other day of the year. It often represents a crisis in a child's life when he/she realises that Father Christmas (Santa Clause), the Easter bunny and the Tooth fairy are mythical. Fortunately most people survive the crisis and come through fairly unscathed, but does that make it Okay? IF you were involved in a car accident, caused by a person driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but you were not seriously injured, does the fact that you were not seriously injured minimise the person's guilt or responsibility? Of course, you would say no. Is there such a thing as a "harmless lie?" I used to think so - I'm not so sure any more. You see if one lies, the one lied to may well find out that he/she was lied to, and the result is a loss in credibility or trust. Now put that into the scenario between an adult and a child where trust is so important. The child can be liable to two possible misconceptions:
- That the adult cannot be trusted in more important issues.
- It's okay to tell lies or to keep secrets.
Someone told me that, nowadays, that the candy being given out during trick or treating has to be tested to ensure that it has not been poisoned. Well I suppose that fits nicely with the theme of Halloween, a few dead children having eaten candy that was trustfully accepted. Excuse me for being cynical, but I wonder why more people of various religious persuasions are not objecting to this holiday. Why can satanists impose their celebration of death on the general public in the form of Halloween when Christians are not allowed to "impose" their celebration of life?
John 10:10 Says "The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
Deuteronomy 30:19 Moses wrote: "This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life so that you ad your children may live."
It strikes me that since Halloween seems to be about death and the "dark side" - its not a huge leap to say that celebrating Halloween is like choosing death. So this is why I personally would choose not to "do Halloween."
What about Guy Fawkes Night. Well It is not as far as I know as spiritually loaded as Halloween. Basically there was a plot in 1605 (wow 300 yearsago!) by a group of Catholics and led by Guy Fawkes plotted to blow up the houses of parliament. The plot however failed and Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspiritors were arrested. Henceforth the date of November 5th was celebrated as Guy Fawkes Night and traditionally fireworks displays take place on this night. It really is a British celebration, but has spread around the world - especially to the English Speaking world where at some point they countries were under British rule. The only negative is the effect of the fire crackers and fireworks on domestic animals - particularly dogs.
Now as for news. Much as the same as before - I'm over the "tummy bug" that caused me some disruption a couple of weeks ago. Wrote an Exam last Monday and only have three left to write. The play is making progress - the children are learning the words and the actions fairly well. Today was the School swimming gala - it went off quite well.
See Ya next week - don't forget to email me your comments - firstname.lastname@example.org