Monday is All Hallow’s Eve, also known as Halloween. I remember getting dressed up in a costume and going into town to go trick-or-treating. It was a pretty awesome time, because candy was not a common treat in my family.
Mostly we would get penny candy. But my friends and I knew the houses that gave out the giant nickel candy bars. Remember?
Before dropping me off, mom would always tell me to behave — meaning not to soap anyone’s windows. One year, however, my friend Larry brought two bars of soap. As we were walking down the street my church was on, we came upon the house next to the church where a mean old “witch” lived. Actually she wasn’t a witch, but she sure didn’t like children. So she got what she deserved that night — we soaped her windows.
No one knew about it but Larry and me, but I sure felt guilty the next day. I felt guilty because I went against what my momma said. And of course, poor old Irma really didn’t deserve to get her windows soaped. Do trick-or-treaters still do that? I heard on the radio the other day that TP’ing people’s houses is the favored prank nowadays.
Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounced “sah’win”). It was a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture. Samhain was a time used by the ancient pagans to take stock of supplies and prepare for the winter. The ancient Gaels believed that on Oct. 31, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc such as sickness or damaged crops.
We Christians don’t believe any of that lore. And while we may participate in our Halloween parties, we don’t celebrate as the pagans do. To me, it’s always been just a time to have fun and give out candy to the children who look so cute in their costumes. At our church, we even held our annual Trunk-or-Treat last Saturday. There certainly was nothing pagan about it — just a lot of good clean fun.
The more important observance, though, is All Saints’ Day. All Saints’ Day follows All Saint’s Eve. It is a day when we pause to remember those Christians who have gone before us. We all remember those saints who influenced our lives — whether it be a Sunday school teacher, youth leader, or pastor.
The saints in my life nurtured me in the faith, and all of them contributed to me answering the call to pastoral ministry. I think of them often — not just on All Saint’s Day.
At our church, we will pause to remember those of our loved ones who went to be with the Lord in the past year. It is a very meaningful, sometimes even emotional, time for those attending.
I know first-hand, for one of the greatest saints I ever knew was my wife, Brenda. It’s been over three years now, and I still talk about how she influenced so many lives around her — especially mine and our children, and our grandchildren.
So, if you observe Halloween on Monday, have fun. But on Tuesday, pause and take some time to remember those saints in your life who contributed to you becoming the Christian you have become. Blessings to you.
Mark Wesler is pastor of New Palestine United Methodist Church. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.