“Halloween is my favorite day of the year,” exclaimed an elderly woman I spoke with this week. She has been a widow for twenty years and continues to live in the house she and her husband bought fifty-two years ago and where they raised their family who is now grown and gone. “It’s the only time when all the children from the neighborhood come and knock on my door and want to talk with me. I can’t wait for ‘trick or treat’ this Sunday. In fact, I wish we had ‘trick or treat’ every Sunday!” In this woman’s neighborhood, the kids are clearly not the only ones who will be receiving something sweet this Sunday. The kids, thinking they are the ones who are getting all the goodies, will in fact, with at least one of their neighbors, be giving just as much sweetness as they are getting.
Each of us longs for connection with our neighbors, old and young alike Those neighbors may be our friends, our coworkers, our family, or the people who live near us. Halloween is not just a fun time, it is also a sacred time, giving us all plenty of opportunities to enjoy and connect with “our neighbors”. Halloween, as simply a fun time, can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Even pets get in on the action it seems as I just learned that $370 million will be spent on pet costumes alone this year!
Some people do not know that Halloween has a religious origin. All Saints Day is a Christian holy day that is celebrated on November 1 every year. It is a day when the Church celebrates the lives of the great saints who have been exemplars of the faith. All Saints Day has also been known as All Hallows Day. The word hallow means holy or sacred, as in the line from the Lord’s Prayer, “hallowed be your name.” The word Halloween, then, is a contraction of the words “hallows eve.” And so Halloween always occurs on October 31, the eve of All Hallows Day, of All Saints Day.
When we think of things that are hallowed, things that are sacred or holy, we probably tend to think of things that are pretty serious and things that are stereotypically religious. Ancient saints of the church come to mind, or a high, holy worship service at a beautiful cathedral or synagogue, or perhaps a beautiful stained glass window. For many people, these are indeed holy and sacred.
Halloween is a reminder though, that the holy and sacred are also found in the everyday, less serious moments of life. This is how Halloween ends up being an annual holy day for an elderly women who cherishes the simple, sacred connection with the children in her neighborhood as they make their way to her door with open bags and smiling faces. There are other ways, too, in which Halloween reminds us that the sacred can be found in everyday moments. When I see my friends posting on Facebook pictures of their children in their Halloween costumes, I think of all the love (and angst, no doubt, as well) that went into creating those costumes- and know that this is sacred, too. When I see the playful side of adults coming out in their choice of a Halloween costume or bobbing for apples, I see the sacred joy of laughter and the holy delight of just being silly. Watching the faces of parents as they delight in watching their children enjoy the tradition of trick or treating or carving out a pumpkin is sacred as well.
Happy Halloween and Happy All Hallows Day to all of you. Be on the watch for those ghosts and goblins that are sure to knock on your door this time of year. Be on the watch, also, for the everyday sacred and holy moments that are sure to show up. And remember, too, that they may be one and the same. Hallowed be all of our moments, fun and serious alike.