Saturday, November 1, 2014

Hallowe'en or Reformation Day?

Growing up in 1960s Scotland meant fun at Halloween. Every 31st October we’d carve turnips into lanterns (while eating raw their insides) and don costumes to become ‘guisers’ (or ‘galoshins’ as we were called). We had to entertain with a song or a poem or some such like the folk whose doors we knocked. They’d respond by giving us sweeties and apples. It was time of ‘dookin’ fur aiples’ which meant that apples floating in a tub of water were to be retrieved by using only ones teeth. No easy task for the non-amphibious! Halloween was transformed into ‘trick-or-treat’ (and turnips into pumpkins!) for our kids while living in 1980s Canada. However, there was no song or rhyme from those knocking on our door, only ghoulishly costumed children holding up anticipatory bags to receive candies! Nowadays in Australia our doorbell hardly ever rings at Halloween, but if it does, it is usually young teenagers merely wanting lollies! Clearly the most Halloween fun was to be had in 60s Scotland!

Though it has been secularised and commercialised certain aspects of Halloween as we know it may be of pagan origin. A rough thumbnail sketch of possible pagan influence: 31st October marked the end of summer and its harvest and the beginning of the dark winter season. It was on this night, Samhainn, ghosts of the dead were supposed to visit! Bonfire ceremonies were held at which people dressed as animals and what have you. Flaming embers (jack-o-lanterns?) were carried from the sacred bonfire to relight the home hearth-fire for protection in the coming winter. Apparently spirits could be propitiated by those in costume to the point of sparing home and harvest. Samhainn came under Roman influences after its invasion of Celtica. Thus Feralia, (a day for honouring the dead) along with Pomona, a goddess of fruit and trees (represented by an apple) were incorporated into rituals. Even the Church did not escape Pagan Roman influence. She merely came up with new titles to sanctify worship of and prayers for the dead! First, those deemed by the Church to be saints were to be worshiped on ‘All Saints’ Day.’ Then on the following day the rest of the faithful departed were to be prayed for on ‘All Souls’ Day.’ Halloween or All Hallows’ Eve is, of course, the evening preceding All Saints’/All Hallows’ Day.  

Halloween nowadays has parents afraid their children might receive apples containing foreign objects such as pins and razors (as has happened)! For me personally, Halloween was changed to Reformation Day when as an adult I was saved by grace through faith in Christ and His work on the cross. Therefore this Celt, instead of bobbing for apples, rejoices that the Holy Spirit was pleased to guide His Church back to His Word. For on 31st October, 1517 Martin Luther started the reformation of the Church (and society along with it) through the publication of his Ninety-five Theses which is said to have been nailed to a church door in Wittenberg. The Reformation spread to many nations (including Scotland) and arguably led to the greatness of the West (i.e., medical science, medicine, hospitals, technology, art, economics, commerce, political freedoms, democratic systems of government etc.) Thanks to the Reformer, John Calvin, these and such like things including music, clothing, architecture, science, and social festivities became free to be cultivated without the previous Church and State interference. Says Henry Van Til, ‘Calvin proclaimed alongside the church and state a third realm, an area of life that has a separate life and jurisdiction. It is called the sphere of the adiaphora, the things indifferent. This is the court of the conscience. No king or pope may here hold sway.’ (The Calvinistic Concept of Culture). Although church and state in their respective spheres of authority were to encourage good moral behaviour, according to Calvin the individual conscience ought to be bound by nothing other than God speaking by His Spirit with His Word. ‘Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God’1 Corinthians 10:31.   

With all of the above in mind we might say that before the fall Adam and Eve went bobbing for apples. Their Father, God, had warned them about the fruit of a particular tree. They went against His clear directions! After eating the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve felt strangely different, but they donned fig-leaf ‘Halloween’ costumes in an attempt to hide from the One who was coming to visit. Thus, they didn’t go doorknocking. Rather it was the LORD who came knocking on their door. ‘Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ Genesis 3:11b. The rest, as they say, is history. Adam and Eve and all their descendants (including you and me) are part of the human race which is in need of reconciliation to God. God has brought about that needed reconciliation through the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. How is it with you? Halloween or Reformation Day?

(Excerpted from my "Curtain Call & Other Contemplations" - see:

No comments:

Post a Comment