When I was younger, we always went trick-or-treating. My dad loved Halloween and wanted us to love it too, so he told us exciting tales of pillowcases full of candy. We weren’t allowed to dress as witches or fortune-tellers or demons, but we were encouraged to enjoy the holiday. I watched this change over time, as my friends and their families pulled away from Halloween. I watched as people began to believe that it was a time to be afraid of evil. When I worked in a Christian bookstore, it was a source of much frustration for me as the churches were moving towards Harvest Festivals and Halloween Alternatives. What was so wrong with Halloween? Why let Halloween be about fear rather than fun? A few years ago, my pastor talked about Halloween, about the gift of imagination and what it means to laugh at things like fear and death, what it means to defeat evil through ridicule and laughter. This article talks about some of those same things that he said. It has stayed with me over the years, the idea of laughing instead of being afraid. Of mocking the things that have no power over us.
I think the pendulum has swung back a bit, or maybe I’m just not in the same environment that I used to be. All I know is that every year, I look forward to handing out candy, to seeing the little ones in their costumes. I look forward to our Great Pumpkin Party. And this year, Mike took things a step further when he decided that we would continue the Great Pumpkin Party fun on Halloween night itself, by offering s’mores and cider to the trick-or-treaters (only the ones we knew, do not fear). I would have been happy to sit inside and watch Halloween episodes of our favorite shows on Hulu, but Mike forced me outside to talk and eat and play with our friends. We sat in our carport with our twinkle lights on and our fire going and handed out candy and played Trivial Pursuit. Our friends came by and hung out for a while. And in the middle of it all, I remembered this John Fischer article in CCM back in 1999. He talked about being at home on Halloween, about interacting with the community around us. I realized that what Mike had done was a holy thing, that he was living out his faith in a real and meaningful way. He wants to know the people in our community and to be known by them. He will be the first to tell you that he is not good at committing to things and to people, but he is trying. And on Halloween, that meant doing more than just handing out candy.
I know you wish I would stop going on and on about the church calendar. And I am sorry. But this Sunday was All Saints’ Sunday, which happened to fall this year on All Saints’ Day. This is the day that we take to remember those in our church and in our lives who have passed. We speak their names, and this year we lit candles in remembrance. I looked at those candles and saw joy and pain intermingled. People we have loved who are no longer here with us. I am always thankful for this Sunday – it is one of my favorites. It’s right to take the time to remember the people we have lost, to name them and to acknowledge that empty space in our lives.
We laughed at evil and death on Halloween night. I saw Superman and kitty cats and a football player and a gumball machine. I lit candles to put in the jack-o-lanterns. And the next morning, I lit a candle in remembrance of my dad. The juxtaposition of the two is so perfect for me – death, you have no power here. Instead, we remember those who have gone before and who we will meet again. And we will keep our lights on, not because we are afraid, but because we love those around us and want to share our lives with them.