Putting Christianity back into Halloween

By  Peter Grbac, Youth Speak News
  • October 19, 2007

{mosimage}With Halloween just around the corner, selecting the perfect costume, pumpkin and treats has become the ultimate focus of this predominately secular event. It seems that this once religious occasion has become little more than a light-hearted event filled with trick-or-treaters and costume parties. In essence, Halloween has become hollow, not hallow.

Yet Halloween is much more than a secular holiday. It is a fusion of pagan and Christian traditions that date back to the 800s when Pope Boniface IV chose Nov. 1 as All Saints’ Day. Most historians believe the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead (Samhain, pronounced sow-in) with an associated, but church-endorsed holiday. The celebration, also referred to as All-hallows, celebrates the lives of saints and martyrs. Eventually, the night before All-hallows took the name “Halloween.”

While attending a Catholic elementary school, many of my teachers had difficulty incorporating faith into this holiday. One teacher, however, used the symbol of the pumpkin to merge these traditions of Halloween.

{sidebar id=1} Like all days at school, we began Halloween with a prayer. This time, however, our teacher held a pumpkin and explained that we would be carving it. She began with the sign of the cross and slowly removed the top of the pumpkin. She prayed, “Lord, open my mind so I can learn new things about you and the world you created.” The class removed the seeds and together we prayed, “Remove the things in my life that don’t please you. Forgive the wrong things I do and help me to forgive others.”

One boy created the eyes, saying, “Open my eyes to see the beauty you’ve made in the world around me.” Another girl created the ears, saying, “Open my ears when I hear your word, so I may learn how you want me to live.” As I created the nose, I prayed, “I’m sorry for the times I’ve turned up my nose at people who are different from me, but who are your children, too.”

My friend created the mouth, saying, “Let everything I say please you.” The pumpkin was now recognizable. But something was still missing. It lacked a soul. The teacher lit the candle and placed it inside. Concluding the prayer, she prayed, “Lord, help me show your light to others through the things I do. Amen.”

By way of this simple symbol of Halloween, my teacher was able to highlight a powerful means to deepen the understanding of our Catholic faith. Several years have passed since I participated in Halloween, but it will always remain special in my life because it is an event the entire family can enjoy and provides us with the opportunity to seriously consider the way we are living the life that God has given us.

We may choose to celebrate Halloween in the secular fashion and ignore the important lessons it has to offer or we can adopt an approach that will enable us to make this hollow event a hallow one. Which one will you choose?

(Grbac is a Grade 12 student at St. Michael’s College School in Toronto.)

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