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Hallowe’en: Don’t forget the morning after the fright before


SHOW me what you value and I’ll tell you what you’re worth. 

At present the Western world is whooping it up for all it’s worth for Hallowe’en. Hell-bent, you might say.  

This festival has its origins in Christian rites of the early centuries after Christ and it has taken into itself many folk traditions.  

Some evangelical Christians don’t like it because they think it comes close to Devil-worship. Perhaps they have a point when you consider all those ghosties, ghoulies, witches, vampires and things that go bump in the night. 

I think the evangelicals are overdoing it a bit. I’m not one of them. I’m just an unsophisticated Yorkshire lad and what scares me about Hallowe’en is the sight of people spending their brass on stuff that’s tawdry and trashy.  

I suppose Rishi Sunak likes it because it supports the economy in the Covid emergency. Freak out to help out, as it were.  

Your typical Yorkshire lad minds his money – and we used to be known for our common sense. I’m not sure how much common sense is left, but I’ll scratch my head and see if I can find a bit … 

Hallowe’en is not evil. It’s merely utterly and completely and unreservedly meaningless. Do those who celebrate it even know what it means? Nothing they will do on October 31, or of course, what they have already been doing for weeks – because our gormless, slapstick, commercial age demands that we live our lives in advance – shows that they have any understanding of it at all. They know not what they do. And that’s what I mean by meaningless. 

Now I am only one rung up the ladder from total ignorance, but even I know that Hallowe’en means All Hallows Evening. And that the hallowed are the Saints, those lights of the world in their several generations. And that the day after the dismal contortions of October 31 is November 1, All Saints’ Day.  

But when the ‘kids’ rush out into the gloom – socially-distanced, naturally – to do their trick-and-treating, when they put on their witches’ hats, paint their faces and eat things so foul as to put you off eating for ever – they don’t think about the Saints at all. 

They don’t think about the Saints because they have never been taught about the Saints – except perhaps some of the older ‘kids’ whose only other saintly devotion is that other commercialised schmaltzfest called St Valentine’s Day.  

How many of the trick-or-treaters, devotees of Harry Potter and avid connoisseurs of the vampire ‘movies’ will be at Mass the next morning – or even at one of those knees-ups and smiley singalongs organised by the disapproving evangelicals? 

Well, in my fumbling, amateur, Yorkshire way, let me try to say a few words about something that does have meaning.  

Beginning with All Saints’ Eve and continuing the next day which is All Souls, this is the time of year when Christians for more than 1,000 years have thought and prayed about the dead.  

First, the Saints who are already singing the praises of their Lord in glory with the angels and archangels. Then all those who have died and await the General Resurrection. 

Hallowe’en is only half of the story. It’s all foreplay with no climax. It represents the disease for which All Saints’ is the cure. Our society and culture celebrates only one half – the diseased half.  

So let me ask again my original question of our culture and society: Show me what you value and I’ll tell you what you’re worth. The answer is nothing 

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Peter Mullen
Peter Mullen
Peter Mullen is a Church of England clergyman, writer and broadcaster

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