Deepening Faith. Living Well. Enacting Justice.

Faith Formation Focus by Janen Wright

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMark your Calendars for a Full Church activity on Wednesday, October 29th (starting at 6:30) and bring your pumpkins with you to carve.  After we have a bunch of jack-o-lanterns we will light them up and watch them glow in the dark.  It would be great if people, young and old, showed up in costume!  How long has it been since you’ve visited the attic to try on great grandma’s wedding dress or donned that rock star wig?  Here is your chance to be a kid again.  Let’s say adults MUST come in costume.  You are also welcome to bring pumpkin bread or a pumpkin dessert (or any fall snack) for our munch table.  (UUCB will provide the hot drinks.)  We will  have fun singing Halloween carols and have a Carnival game or two to reminded us of the good ol’days.  Feel free to invite your friends and join R.E. and Family Matters for a night of community.

Halloween.  Although I love any excuse to celebrate, this holiday has always struck me as a strange one; dressing our children up to go door to door begging the neighbors for candy– especially when children are dressed up as wicked or even gruesome spooks.  This column gave me the opportunity to look farther into the history of Halloween so let me share with you my findings.

The United States adopted this holiday in the early 1900s. The holiday comes down to us from the pre-Christian Celtic festival of Samhaim, (pronounced  “sah-win”) held October 31st, the last autumn night before the cold and bleakness of winter.  Halloween is considered the Celtic New Year.  It was believed that on this night the supernatural world drew closer to the physical world allowing humans to be more susceptible to the power and influence of the unseen.  On All Hallows’ Eve magic spells could be cast more easily, divination would be more revealing, and dreams that you have more significant.

Masks and costumes were worn in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or to appease them on this night when the dead could arise and maybe wreak havoc.  People left candy on the doorstep to pacify any spooks that might otherwise come inside for refreshment.  When we say “trick or treat” the trick part is a threat to the homeowner or his property if no treat is given.  Who knew?  The festival frequently involved bonfires which was believed to attract insects which in turn attracted the bats, a popular Halloween icon.

I like that Halloween is one of the few non-Christian holidays that we celebrate since Unitarian Universalists respect many different cultures and traditions.  I like that it gives us an excuse to cross onto our neighbors’ porches and at least say “hello”.  When I had young kids some of the older folks in the neighborhood looked forward to their visit and went out of their way to give them special treats.  It gave my kids a bond with those neighbors.  When I was a child there was an old lady on the corner that dressed as a witch and served root beer on dried ice from a black colander.  She was our favorite and I was sure that she was the real thing, albeit a good witch since she was giving out soda instead of worms and frog eyes.  That is a good memory.

If there is a spiritual message to be taken from this holiday maybe it is that we should make room for mystery and awaken to magic more often.  Mystery  and magic is, after all, all around us.  Starhawk (American writer and feminist) explained, “To work magic is to weave the unseen forces into form; to sour beyond sight; to explore the uncharted dream realm of the hidden reality.”  Our powers are always much greater than we realize.  Let’s join together this holiday season to build beloved church community and enjoy the power of fun and unity.

Janen Wright, Lifespan Faith Development Director


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