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Past Events – Halloween Party 2003
Thursday 30 October 2003

The inspiration for having a Halloween Party came largely from Simpsons Halloween Special, our talk by Rev. Audrey Simpson at Halloween in 2002.  We felt that we wanted to do something to reverse the decline of the Christian celebration of Halloween and show that Halloween was the Christian version of a pagan festival, and still should be!

Audrey's talk

We thought that it would be good to start with another talk from Audrey to help explain why we were having a Halloween party.  This was similar to the talk of the previous year (although now based on an article by Ingrid Shelley), with Audrey explaining how Halloween is actually the Christian version of a Pagan festival, being the day before All Saints' Day (or All Hallows' Day, hence All Hallow's Eve which became Hallowe'en and now Halloween):

Audrey explained more about the original Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced "Sow-enn" or "Sow-in"; Gaelic for "summer's end") and the rituals and festivities which were involved including bringing in animals for winter; bonfires; setting out food and drink for the visiting dead; carving turnips; young people being boisterous and playing tricks on their elders; and apple bobbing.

As people started to convert to Christianity, they were reluctant to give up the ancient traditions that gave a focus to the seasonal cycles and an opportunity for festivities in the midst of life's struggles.  Christianity also recognised the importance of the themes of remembering the dead, family and community that Samhain contained.  So in 837 Pope Gregory IV moved All Saints Day from May to 1 November, thus providing a focus for the celebrations.

Parts of the Christian celebration included preparation for All Saints Day and dressing up as witches, demons and monsters as a way of poking fun at the supserstitions associated with the festival and showing that God is bigger than the things we fear.

Audrey explained how she had grown up celebrating Halloween as a Christian, with the link to All Saints Day made very clear, and how she was very surprised when she came to England from Northern Ireland to find that it was treated with such suspicion by Christians.  She said that we should reclaim Halloween and say "this is ours", but should be ready to explain why we celebrate it.

Fun and Games

Part of our party was the dressing up.  We had a wide range of costumes of scary things including witches, a vampire, "failure", fire and a giant.   Sally-Jane won best prize for her witch's costume.

The main part of the evening was traditional Halloween games.  We started with doughnuts on strings, many of the doughnuts being jam-filled ones which added to the mess!   We then moved on to apple-bobbing followed closely by marshmallows-in-flour (that order for the games was deliberate...).  We then finished off the games with a boys vs girls pumpkin-carving competition.  A good pumpkin and an evil one were created, and both looked very impressive.

Prayer and reflection

Important parts of Halloween are the symbolism showing how God is bigger than anything we fear; and the preparation for All Saints Day.  We ended the evening with a time of prayer and reflection on these topics.  This started with any easily-removed bits of costume being piled in the centre of the room.  Sam (who lead this part of the evening) then encouraged everyone to look at the pile and see how that shows how much of a threat things which scare us are -- "just a pile of clothes".  We continued with a Bible reading on God's power (Psalm 23:4-6) and one in preparation for All Saints Day (Rev 7:9-12).  We then had a time of silent prayer giving thanks for God's power, praying for those who have died and praying that we may be inspired in our lives by the Saints.  A wonderful sense of peace, I felt.  The prayers were drawn to a prayer with the Collect for All Saints Day from the US Book of Common Prayer (1979):

Almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that thou hast prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, in glory everlasting.   Amen

See also: Halloween Party photos, Simpsons Halloween Special (the talk which inspired our party).

Collect taken from the Episcopal Church Book of Common Prayer.   Copyright 1979.