As long as I can remember I’ve always enjoyed dressing up, any occasion or party really floats my creative boat! Around the age of five, at a friends house, I vividly recollect excitedly exploring the expanse of a big “dress up drawer”, pulled out from the bottom of her mum’s heavy old oak wardrobe. Since then, it’s been a delight to continue to discover amazing jewels of colour, gorgeous swathes of volume and shape, sensuous textures, particularly silk, lace, faux fur and velvet, not to mention sequins!
Obviously, I’m certainly one who can empathise with the enjoyment and attraction of enrobing in costume. However, whatever is with children donning horror garb, out after dark knocking on doors, and calling it a celebration, of what may I ask!
As I recall, my first encounter with this unfamiliar phenomenon came through the 1982 Steven Spielberg film E.T. containing depictions of some American tradition, I figured. We’ve not encouraged our daughter to join in such antics, frankly the last thing I’d want to see is her covered in blood, like some nightmare portent of doom! Neither have we answered related knocks at the door, boycotting TV shows supporting it. For the first time in 2014 we had two neighbours, cloaking their abode in macabre decorations. More recently, I was astounded to encounter a number of overtly gruesome and chillingly bedecked, Kensington (London SW) residencies –laughing, happy sounding American accents emanating from within. Vestiges of “over paid and over here”.
Delving into and sifting through a maelstrom of data to get to the bottom of this particular drawer, here’s the gist of my findings, attempting to separate the wood from the proverbial trees.
Historically, there’s been a Christian tradition, established since the 4th century AD, of remembering saints and martyrs. All Hallows’ Eve (Hallowe’en) 31 October, All Saints’ Day (Allhallowmass / Hallowmass), designated to 1 November by Pope Gregory IV in 837 AD, and All Souls’ Day on 2 November. This liturgical season of Allhallowtide was considered to be of such importance that in the mid 15th century, Pope Sixtus IV expanded the triduum into a full octave! However as part of Pope Pius XII liturgical reforms, the eight day observance was eliminated in 1955. The CofE website currently advises “The Sunday between 30 October and 5 November may be kept as All Saints’ Sunday”. Do tarry a while there and read the poignant MTAG (Mission Theology Advisory Group) reflective prayers (pdf) for all three days.
When do we get to, my personal favourite, dressing up then?
In Shakespeare’s comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona, published in 1623, there’s a reference to Hallowmas. Which at that time, among other things, would include the customary practice of commoners, sometimes dressed as the patron saint of their local church, disguised or masked, begging at houses of the rich. In exchange for songs and prayers they would receive Soul Cakes, topped with a cross. The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church of the day, the practice continued in England until the 1930’s and it’s still found in some countries.
Over 2,000 years ago the pre Christian Celts marked the end of summer, the harvest, the beginning of winter, the first day of their new year and rituals honouring the dead, with Druid led Samhain. They believed it to be a time when the dead could walk among the living, and the living could visit with the dead. Fearing abduction by ghosts, fairies, evil spirits and the like, a customary precaution when venturing outside was to adopt frightful attire, to impersonate the aforementioned. Thus fooling the wandering spirits into mistaking them for one of their own, and avoiding harm. Food and drink was also offered to appease. Homes were decorated with lighted, ghoulish faced, carved turnips, beetroots or potatoes, to ward off bad spirits.
NB. Irish potato famine immigrants carried this tradition to America. The native Pumpkins were more readily available and easier to carve. Such lanterns were integrated into Hallowe’en shenanigans, they’re popularity properly taking off in the 1920’s. The name Trick or Treat was first used in America around the late 1920’s or early 1930’s, starting in earnest in Britain in the 1980’s.
Divination games, included apple bobbing, for predicting marriages and matters of the heart. Hilltop bonfires were lit and both ritualistic animal and human sacrifices were undertaken, in endeavours to repel evil spirits. On a lighter note, I do like the Book of Kells and the Celtic knots within its lavish decoration. For our 25th wedding anniversary our daughter gave us and herself (three, one each), silver Triquetra, Holy Trinity knot rings.
With Americans spending at least $6 billion (£4.5 billion) on Hallowe’en each year, it was estimated that Britain would spend an extraordinary £320 million ($418 million) in 2017, compared with £12 million in 2001.
The trick, in my opinion, is that we’re being unwittingly seduced, by touted shopping aisle tat, into accommodating pagan religious, superstitious codswallop! The treat is for the retailers fleecing us with increased commercialisation. Nonetheless, I do care that children, in ignorance, will be out on the streets and, doesn’t that present an opportunity?
Among other daily devotionals, I read UCB’s (United Christian Broadcasters) Word For Today. Their Bag of Hope recently came to my attention, featuring Patch the pumpkin, it’s designed to bless just such children, containing a Bible based booklet and activity sheet. They’re free to order, just pay postage.
UCB’s joined with Scripture Union who supply Light Party Packs,
which go well with the bags. The CofE website also has Share a little light (pdf) with advice on light parties.
Finally, time to dress up then! Yay!
As I write, I’m in the process of ordering the counter cultural (yes!) items, as detailed above, arranging a Light Party, and designing my appropriate apparel! When one puts a light on, the dark goes, so a little light on the subject then…
Evangelism, now that is scary! Tee hee.
We’re having our bring and share Light Party, on October 31st from 6pm!
God bless. Love Laura