St. Mark Fall Festival

A word about Halloween.

Many dedicated Christians (some of them Orthodox Christians) are very “anti” Halloween. They point out the anti-Christian elements in the origins of this observance, namely that November 1 was (and is) in the Western Christian calendar, All Saints Day (All Hallows Day). The day before (October 31) was a pagan (Celtic) feast where the line between the dead and the living was blurred. October 31 was also regarded as the first day of winter, and many pre-Christian practices were associated with this (lighting bonfires, etc.) Later this evening was associated with goblins and witches, ghouls and so on.

In various ways, both the Christian Feast of All Saints and the pre-Christian observances were practiced in Ireland and Scotland and ultimately in England, whence it came to America in the 19th Century. Some of these included dressing up as ghosts, goblins, etc. giving out “treats”, bobbing for apples, and carving pumpkins into scary faces.

The commercialization of Halloween began in the latter part of the 20th Century. Mass produced Halloween costumes appeared about 50 years ago. As with other holidays, the profit motive has motivated companies to market more and more Halloween products with greater and greater success. Halloween is now a “major holiday” for retailers and a great source of profit for them.

In spite of this, the observance of Halloween remained for some time simply a fun evening for children, wherein they could dress up in a costume, receive some delicious treats and visit their neighbors. In the latter part of the last century, however, certain changes in popular culture accentuated the horror and occult elements of Halloween celebrations. Forty years ago devil, witch and ghost costumes were rather cartoon-like. Now, however, under the influence of television and movies, blood, gore, disfiguration and the occult are often expressed even in little children’s costumes. Add to this, the rare but highly publicized incidents of poisoned candy or apples with hidden razors caused parents tremendous fears.

What then should we do?
The spiritual and physical safety of our children (and teens and adults) must be paramount. Therefore:

1. If your children go out trick or treating, they must be accompanied by a responsible adult. This should be so even if the trick or treating is done at a mall or shopping center.
2.No child (teen or adult) Orthodox Christian should wear a costume depicting witches, warlocks, demons, etc. Such images should not be trivialized or “played with.” No costume that is truly frightening (i.e. depicting bloody, gory people or creatures) should be worn. Dressing up as heroes (real or fictional) is a healthy alternative.
3.Good manners must be inculcated in the children. Instead of “Trick or Treat” we should teach our children to imitate the Scots, who say, “The sky is blue, the grass is green, may we have our Halloween?” Destructive or cruel pranks must be discouraged and, if practiced, punished.

Ultimately, if your family can observe Halloween as a fun evening to dress up in a costume, visit the neighbors and observe a pleasant community event, then there is no reason not to participate. Anything else must be avoided.

In Christ,
Fr Michael

Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America