Light The Night
An Article exposing the Origins, the Dangers, and the Alternatives for Halloween
By Zelda Dominguez
“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
– Matthew 5:16 (NASB)
As I was with my three-year-old niece this week, I was so surprised to hear her say, “I’m going trit or treating!” (How she pronounced it) I then asked her, what does that mean? She went on to say it’s when you dress up in a costume and get candy!” This three year had come to know a little something as to what Halloween was all about. Already everywhere I see houses decorated with cobwebs, spiders or something scary. The stores are booming with business selling costumes, candy and decorations. New horror movies premiere around this time and amusement parks have haunted houses or mazes where macabre characters run after you and scare you as you go through. To the world it is big business and fun .What is Halloween to you? Before you answer, allow me to share with you a few facts about where this traditional holiday comes from and why some of the things that are associated with it.
There’s extensive information out there if you would like to research for yourself in depth, but I will just mention some basic origin facts. I’ll begin with the word Halloween. It originally came from the Middle English word “Alholowmesse,” meaning All Saints Day. It was eventually shortened and became Halloween in the 20th Century .The origin of this holiday comes from a few ancient festivals. The Roman Feralia Festival commemorating the dead. The Festival of Pomona celebrating the harvest goddess of the same name. Lastly The Celtic Festival of Samhain (sow -wein) or “summers end”. During the medieval times in Ireland and Scotland the Samhain Festival was held at sunset on October 31st and lasted through daylight on November first marked the ending of harvest season and the beginning of winter or “dark season”. Samhain was said to be the druid god of death. This pagan god who this festival is named after was like a ghostly skeleton holding a sickle. Later came to be known as the Grim Reaper. Some people believed that during that festival a door was opened from the underworld. People would then put out food and drinks in front of their home for the spirits. During this festival people would dress up in costumes to disguise themselves from the dead.
Did you ever think what the jack o lantern’s significance was? The apparently harmless lighted pumpkin face of `Jack-O-Lantern’ is an ancient symbol of a damned soul.” According to an article I read by Dr. John Macarthur Jr. according to folklore, Jack-O’-Lanterns were named for a man called Jack, who could not enter heaven or hell. As a result, he was doomed to wander in darkness with his lantern until judgment day. With this in mind, people began to hollow out pumpkins and turnips, placing candles inside to scare evil spirits from their houses. Did you know the word witch comes from the word “wica” meaning wise one. Wicca also can best be described as a modern religion, based on ancient witchcraft traditions.
Bats are also associated with Halloween, These creatures are nocturnal, and so it’s natural that a celebration about the end of the light seasons and the beginning of the dark ones would incorporate them. Additionally, in the old days Halloween meant big bonfires, which draw mosquitoes and moths, which would in turn draw bats, so bats were likely a common sight during the early Samhain Festivals and later Halloween celebrations.
The skeleton is connected to Halloween both because of the death of the “light” seasons and because of the perceived connection to the spirit realm. Since Samhain not only celebrated the end of harvest, but also those had passed into the next “realm,” it is called by some a “Festival of the Dead.” The idea of ghost’s plays into this idea that Halloween night is the one night that the spirits of the ancestors are able to walk among the living.
Trick or Treating comes from the Middle Age practice of the poor dressing up in costumes , going door to door during Hallowmas begging for food or money in exchange for prayers. Trick or treating started out meaning the person asking for a treat would perform a trick for the amusement of the giver. It included singing a song or reciting. The meaning eventually changed to give us a treat or we will pull a prank on you. This spread in North America, Ireland, Scotland vandalizing homes, egg throwing and other pranks if a treat wasn’t given.
Weather its zombies, vampires, witches, Freddie Kruger, haunted houses, Chucky, werewolves, or any of the other figures or traditions you see associated with Halloween, make a knowledgeable but prayerful decision how you will or won’t celebrate Halloween. In closing I’d like to share some alternatives to the traditional Halloween celebrations that perhaps you would like to start or participate in. Instead of focusing on the dark or negative aspects you can turn the holiday into a positive relationship building or outreach experience.
Attend your church’s fall carnival or Harvest Festival .Participate by attending, wearing a positive or biblical costume. Or choose to help with ministry in the festival reaching out to the community shining the light of Jesus.
Pumpkin Patch/Apple Farm
Visit a pumpkin patch or apple farm. Pick your own apples. Most places have hayrides, and games. Then when arriving home as a family decorates, bake, do crafts and has family time or fellowship. In the evening you can eat the baked items you made.
Have a skate party at a local skating rink with neighbors, friends, or a group of families. Adult and children can dress up. Provide food, play games, give prizes for different things
Have a family hayride. Schedule a hayride at a nearby farm or ranch. Or with lawn tractors and trailers with hay make your own. Provide rides to neighborhood or on church grounds.
Be a Host
Host your own party. The whole family can dress with theme costumes. (No masks and friendly costumes) Karaoke, have a candy treasure hunt or scavenger hunt, eat good food, and have a talent show or contests.
Go mystery bowling? Most people are out doing other activities so it’s easier to reserve a lane. Either you can dress in a funny costume or make rules on a bowling card of a different bowling stance to be used in each of the ten bowling frames. For example, bowl on your tippy toes, or backwards and throw thru your legs. Next, give each frame a score requirement. For instance, you might require your family members to knock down three pins in frame one while frame two might require six or seven pins. Any bowler who doesn’t meet the pin requirement must choose a silly costume piece to wear during the next frame: a hat, a skirt, even a big curly wig. If a bowler does meet the pin requirement he might earn a piece of candy or a prize. Take pictures. Very fun!
Plan a progressive costume dinner party. Organize it for three to four friends’ homes. You could all wear costumes. Perhaps cartoon characters, super heroes, or favorite Disney character. You would eat appetizers at first house and play an ice breaker. Each family would share the expenses. Second house would have the food and fellowship.. Third house a game and prize or craft. Last home dessert is served.
Spread the News
Spread the Good News. Taking time to meeting your neighbors. Dress in costumes optional. As a family decorate yard, provide music, be creative. Pass out candy and evangelistic tracts or homemade invites to your church. Let it be an outreach and then come in afterwards and have fun food, time of worship, special activities.