Growing up, autumn to me meant the Harvest Festival, a day of Hallowe’en trick or treating, and Guy Fawkes Night. Harvest Festival was big: we grew all our food and brought our bounty to church to be redistributed to the poor or elderly. Nowadays, we don’t have Harvest Festivals because there are no harvests, just Tesco 24/7 or Call & Collect and Uber Eats if you’re lucky; an empty cupboard if you’re not. Hallowe’en is month-long (actually, historically it’s two months-long). It is a period in the liturgical calendar to reflect on the unjust deaths, the Christian martyrs, departed souls of loved ones. To reflect on death is NOT morbid; it’s actually healthy as it’s the one sure thing we’ll all face and western society’s sanitisation of any mention of it is more toxic and, frankly, worrying. ‘Passing away’, ‘gone to heaven’, ‘sleeping with the angels’….Note to self: angels don’t sleep.
Hallowe’en is healthy. It’s not American; it’s not pagan. If it’s anything, it’s Scottish and Irish in origin. Immigrants took their traditions with them to North America while the Reformation sought to stamp them out in the UK claiming they were satanic. But it was a political rather than a spiritual move. Personally, I think the celebration of a suspected terrorist disembowelled and burnt alive at the stake in a public celebration is far more sinister than engaging in Hallowe’en.
When I lived in Calabasas, off Los Virgenes, I’d go walking each day across the Santa Monica mountains. Every October, the coyotes would be howling their unearthly chorus around the mountains, the crows cawing at dusk and the mountain tops full of wild pumpkin. It was a very real time for me, dealing with a lot of death, injustice and violence and made me reconsider this period of the year. I’d go to the Calabasas Pumpkin festival and yes – always bought into the whole Pumpkin Spice everything moment.
Now I see the need for Hallowe’en, particularly as so many in the world right now are in living hells of injustice and violence. The earth has been polluted by our sins of greed, blood and injustice. It’s broken and heaving up its hidden dead. Now is the time for sackcloth, ashes and repentance – not denial and head burying. I'll donate the money I'd spend on bags of candy giving to Open Doors for those living a daily nightmare for their faith, for the victims of vioence, for the families of martyrs. Bring on All Hallowtide. I’m doing it till December 1st.