Exe Valley Mission Community


Trick or Treat - Harmless or Dangerous?

Hallowe'en is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, in the belief that on the night before their New Year on 1 November, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead become blurred. On the night of 31 October they believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth; people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts.

In the eighth century, the Church designated 1 November as a time to honour all saints and martyrs; All Saints’ Eve, Hallowe'en, evolved into a secular, community based event. Apparently one quarter of all the sweets sold annually in America are purchased for Hallowe'en!

For many, Hallowe'en today is harmless fun characterized by child-friendly activities such as dressing up in ghoulish costumes and trick-or-treating. For others it can become a passage towards witchcraft and involvement with dark occult forces.

Sometimes I am asked what my attitude to this festival is, do I agree it is just a bit of fun or is it dangerously playing with forces we do not understand?

Put like that it is not an easy one to answer in a “yes” or “no” manner. For many children the evening is indeed a harmless exercise in dressing up and having fun. However, I have to say that I find some of the associated activities and marketing somewhat sinister. “Trick or Treat” has within the very title the idea of blackmail. There is something quite Sub- Christian in the idea that “I will do something unpleasant to you unless you do something I want”

At worst this is the philosophy of the protection racket employed by gangsters and terrorists, leading to extortion of large sums of money to keep the victim safe or even to avoid murder.

Now this might be considered an over-reaction to a few kids asking for a sweet “or else I will put this spider through your letter box.” Maybe it is - but the philosophy behind it is the same and I do not want my grandchildren to adopt such a concept.

Put alongside the Christian Gospel the Hallowe'en message is shown up for what it is. The Lord Jesus offers us forgiveness and new life freely and without cost. Far from asking us for a favour as a condition of blessing us, His offer is freely made; we accept by faith. He took the trick for us on the cross - we are left with the treat!

John Roberts

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