The Feast of All Saints was established by the Christian Church in the eighth century in order to remember martyrs who were brutalized and killed because of their faith. In the many years since then, the celebration has expanded to include all holy people recognized by the church. The Episcopal Church combines All Saints Day and All Souls Day to recall all the faithful departed, whether or not they have been or will ever be recognized by a church.
The Celtic festival of Samhain, which ushers in the “dark half of the year,” was adapted and placed on the eve of All Saints Day in order to playfully remember the dark spirits around us in anticipation of All Saints Day. The purpose of the occasion was not to succumb to any sense of danger, but to remind the faithful that “evil” spirits have no actual power. From a monotheistic perspective, Halloween is an opportunity to poke fun at the shadows and dark places in our lives, so we may live with faith and not fear.
If we, as adults, sometimes think we are finding more to be fearful of, we’d do well to remember that playfulness is often strong medicine in a scary world. This is the time of year when I notice that seasonal lawn decorations have once again gained in popularity. As a child, it always seemed to me that Christmas decorations were the most common and elaborate. Yet, these days, Halloween decorations seem to be gaining on Christmas decorations. Upon reflection, this playful approach makes great sense—much like decorating for the holidays. I wonder how else you and I might “playfully” remind ourselves that the only thing to fear is fear itself?