An Alternative to Halloween

Halloween—Hallowed?  Or Heretical?

Americans spend 6 billion dollars a year on Halloween, a holiday that has become second only to Christmas in commercial significance.  Halloween, a contraction of All Hallows’ Evening, or All Saints’ Eve, started out as a Christian observance, or had its roots in pagan Celtic     traditions, depending on whom you talk to.  In either case, Halloween has always been about death.  In Celtic circles, it began with people wearing costumes to ward off ghosts on All Hallows’ Eve.  The following day—All Saints’ Day–was a Christian observance that traditionally honored people who had been martyred for their faith.

Many of us probably have happy memories of trick or treating, or maybe bobbing for apples at an old-fashioned kids’ party.  But once unsuspecting children began finding that their treat bags held apples with razor blades, Halloween took on a sinister bent that has caused  parents to rethink the holiday.  Now many Christian groups have begun offering alternative celebrations.

Not so long ago, martyrdom among contemporary Christians was extremely rare. But now believers are being tortured and killed at an appalling rate.  According to Open Doors, an organization that provides support for believers, Christians are now the most persecuted religious group in the world.

Vatican officials warned the United Nations that in 2012 the worldwide death toll for martyred Christians was 100,000.  These killings don’t get much attention in the press, but British politicians, including their Minister for Faith and Communities and Prince Charles called the rise in Christian persecution a global crisis.

Who would have thought in these “enlightened” times where the protection of human rights is supposedly such a cherished value, that thousands of Christians would be killed for their faith?  Maybe it’s time to bring back the tradition of All Saints’ Eve as a time when churches honor those who have been martyred and pray for the increasing numbers of believers who are languishing in prisons and are being tortured for their faith.

The New Testament book of Acts records the stoning death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, this way:  But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” . . . While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”  When he had said this, he fell asleep.

By Sharon Sheppard

 

We might do well to go back to the practice of observing using it as a day to honor Christian martyrs.

Earlier the church established December 28 as a day to commemorate the first Christian martyrs—the babies ordered slain by the wicked King Herod.  Biblical accounts tell of his order to kill all the male babies under the age of two in the hope of killing the baby Jesus.