I walked up to the front door of a house during the week, I was about to knock when, out of the corner of my eye I noticed, half hidden by the hedge, a skeleton on the grass and gasped. Still startled I noticed it was sort of half buried, but smiling, as if it were breaking free from the ground, coming out of the grave. Halloween has become ‘scary’, with witches and ghouls dangling by doors and from limbs of trees, pumpkins displayed with gnashing teeth, and manic grins, hedges draped in cobwebs, signs suggesting that you’d better ‘stay out’.
People my age tend to reminisce about the Halloweens of our youth, recalling the way we bobbed for apples, were treated to a toffee apple, spent hours carving faces in turnips and squeezed a candle inside and if we were really bold, took the gates off a neighbour’s house, as a sign that the restless spirits weren’t always well behaved. Now it’s ‘trick and treating’ like our American cousins, dressing up in truly frightening costumes and for the little people gathering a lot, far too many, sweets and bars from kindly folks, brave enough to answer a knock. The children of today have a ball finding their costumes and perfecting their makeup, the more blood the better!
One way or another Halloween is a night like no other, in fun and jest the darker side of the spiritual life comes alive and all sorts roam around to disrupt the calm of everyday and suggest another dimension to life. The magical, mysterious movement of witches on brooms and ghostly figures with grotesque features keep our spine tingling and heart in mouth.
To be honest I’m sort of glad when it’s over, the orange wreaths are taken off doors and packed away with plastic bones and conical hats and we get ready for All Saints Day and then All Souls. When the faith community gathers to recall the lives of those who’ve lived among us and are now departed we have an altogether more consoling tale to tell. Our dead are at peace, they live in heavenly light, paradise is their final destination and one generation is reunited with those who went before. God is there with his angels and saints; St Peter guards the gate and the Blessed Mother is waiting to bring the dead to join the heavenly chorus. Jesus, radiant and risen is at the Father’s side and all is well. We are left to celebrate their lives, remember our dead and to pray for all the faithful departed in the month ahead.