The Funny Thing Called Halloween
(Posted October 25, 2019)
"I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion." — Henry David Thoreau
It’s a funny thing, this holiday called Halloween. As the autumn shadows lengthen and darkness comes earlier each evening, most kids get the idea that it’s a time to be creative, a chance to dress up and be what you’re not, and to make a haul of candy ringing doorbells in a way you couldn’t do any other day of the year. However, there are others who see sinister shadows within the shadows. Along the way someone has told them that Halloween is “pagan,” which means to them that it must be evil, even satanic.
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No one, however, has told these fearful people that to be pagan merely means to come from “the countryside.” Paganism is simply a pre-Christian country religion that, like all religions, has their rituals and beliefs, including the celebration of their New Year’s eve on October 31, when it’s believed that the “veil” that separates the seen world from the unseen world of spirits becomes thin. Interestingly enough, if there were no Halloween, there would be no Christian All Saints Day. Halloween, you will recall, means “All Hallow’s Eve” – the eve before the holy day of the saints.
But what’s the connection with pumpkins and jack o’ lanterns? Consider the fact that when you carry a lit pumpkin, you are a light bearer in the gathering darkness, illuminating your way home. Now in America, we carve pumpkins because they are so plentiful, in England and Ireland where the tradition of making Jack O’ Lanterns came about, they didn’t carve pumpkins: they carved turnips!
My Sunday message is also going to touch on where the lore about witches came from, the way that exclusion of certain people in communities ended up branding them as outcasts and worse, by the very people who thought that they were so much better than the least of their brethren.