Halloween – But it’s not Byzantine!
Halloween, which is also called All Hallow’s Eve (I like this one best because it sounds old fashioned and I love that), Hallowmas, Hallowtide, or All Saint’s Eve, happens on October 31st. Right? Well, kind of.
For Roman Catholics, and anyone celebrating whatever comes up on a secular calendar, yes. But as ByziMom Lynne pointed out to me in her excellent “Halloween” article, in the Byzantine Liturgical calendar, All Saints’ Day doesn’t happen until the first Sunday after Pentecost. Whose up for a second Halloween on June 6th 2020? A Byzantine Halloween.
So before we get into our family’s thoughts and feelings on Halloween (what’s good, what’s bad, and what’s evil), I thought I’d give some ways to recognize All Saints’ and Souls’ Days, and some other good things to get done in your spiritual life this month. And again in June!
Hallowed All Hallow’s Eve To Do List
Note: you probably want to set aside a whole week to get this list done!
- Clean up your icon corner. Dust the icons, table, books, and whatever else you have there
- All Holy Clean Up: gather your broken rosaries and other blessed items (such as pussy willows, flowers, blessed foods that have gone off and yet you’re still keeping them in your fridge) and bury them.
- Write up a list of loved ones who have passed. Put the list in your icon corner and remember them in your prayers.
- Say prayers for the souls in purgatory
- Visit the graves of nearby loved ones. While you’re there, say a prayer for those there who have no one to pray for them
Halloween: Hallowed or Not
So, as usual this time of year, there has been a lot of talk about Halloween in Christian circles. I’m not going to repeat the history of Halloween, though I’d recommend reading Catholic Answers’ exploration of “a healthy fear of the devil versus an unhealthy fear of the devil” and the history of Halloween and Christianity from the perspective of the Church.
Michelle Arnold does a great job with the article, and she answers a lot of questions about what is good and what is bad when it comes to October 31st. The part about John the Baptist made me laugh out loud. That doesn’t happen very often while I’m reading!
So, before you go on, I reeeally recommend reading the article. So go on. Click it. It will open in a new tab, that you can close to come back here when you’re done. I’ll wait.
Halloween in Our Family
So, since our oldest is two, we don’t actually do that much yet. For her first Halloween, (she was 2 months old) I just put her sweater on her. Baby sweaters tend to be of cute animals so they easily double as a costume. The next year I put a pretty dress on her… *poof* princess! My MiL likes us to be at her house for Halloween so we just hand out candy there.
I don’t know if or when we’ll start going out l. Honestly, I think I’d prefer to go around the mall during the day once Little Fox is old enough to get something out of it. Or maybe we can have just as much fun having a candy party at home with fun costumes and a Saints movie night and pumpkin colouring. (Anyone else dislike pumpkin carving? I mean the smell and the texture… ugh!).
What About Evil?
But what about the evil stuff on Halloween? Well, the Catholic Answers article I mentioned earlier partially covers it. But basically it comes down to this: do we stop celebrating Easter because of the Easter Bunny? And Christmas and St. Nicholas’ Day because of Coca Cola’s Santa Claus? No, we don’t.
We’ve got our own traditions. And part of the fun of following a 2000 year old Faith is keeping up the fun traditions we’ve picked up along the way. Yeah this “new”-age stuff does open up doors to evil, but that’s why we stay away from fortune telling/divination and ouiji boards. And not only that, but we have to tell our kids why it’s bad, and show them the good things we have instead. Otherwise it’ll just look like the grass is greener on the other side.
Disclaimer: I’m not suggesting talking to four-year-old children about the reality of demons, or at least not in full. Age-appropriate explanations.
Harry Potter: or Everything Happens on Halloween
If you haven’t read Harry Potter, I’m going to guess it doesn’t surprise you that a lot of the important events happen on Halloween. Although, it wouldn’t actually change the story much if it were another day of the year. But that’s an aside.
Yes, there are a lot of Christians who are totally against Harry Potter. Even priests who work in exorcism.
However, this podcast by Trent Horn (who isn’t a fan of Harry Potter either), brings up some good points about why Harry Potter isn’t the demonic story it is made out to be. Like the fact that the series uses incantational magic rather than invocational magic. And the fact that there is no correlation between Harry Potter and a rise in Wiccan activity or however its spun to sound.
Basically, Trent shows that the arguments used against Harry Potter don’t hold up to a good philosophical debate. He’s not arguing that everyone should go out and read Harry Potter. But he is arguing that it is okay for anyone who does.
I’ve mentioned before that I went through RCIA in grade 12 to receive the rest of my sacraments of initiation. What I haven’t talked about was how my conversion of heart to the Catholic Church happened.
I learned one good thing from the first Catholic school I went to in grades one and two. God loves everyone.
And with the faith of a child I believed it. I could tell you with certainty that God loves everyone. Me, you, the person over there we don’t really like… God loves them. The trouble was, I had no idea what love meant. I had a bit of a troubled childhood, so I never really felt safe. Or loved. I love you was just something you had to say to family. That was as deep as it got for me. At least, until I read Harry Potter.
Reading has always been my my favourite way to relax. Even after my husband introduced me to Pokémon on our six months anniversary while dating. While I travelled around the country with my mother, people who saw me reading would often ask “Oh have you read Harry Potter?” And I would answer (quite pridefully) “No, I don’t read popular stuff.” Well, after hearing the question 100 times I started to wonder what Harry Potter was like. My mother told me I wouldn’t like it, but by the time I reached grade seven, I said “why don’t I read the first book so at least I know what it’s like?” She agreed. And there begun a six year obsession!
Now, I enjoyed reading the series, and after book one I could finally join in the pretend wizard play at my (Catholic) elementary school. But nothing really changed for me until I read the 7th and final Harry Potter book.
A Harry Potter Conversion
There is one chapter near the end of the book called “The Prince’s Tale.” In it, we learn that every thing done by the character Severus Snape throughout the entire series, was done because he loved Lily’s mother (who died before the start of the first book).
That image of love really shook me. Here was a man, who had sacrificed so much, all because he loved a woman who died 17 years previous. That’s when I realized, that’s what it means when we say “God loves us.” Because everything God did in the Bible, He did because He loves us.
The theme of love in the Harry Potter series helped me to understand God in a way no elementary school catechetics class ever could. So that is why I love the series so much (and until grade 12, it was all I had to hang onto my desire to join the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. So, I have trouble with people saying that Harry Potter leads people to paganism. Because it led me to God.
Christianity in Harry Potter
Aside from that, now that I’ve fully joined the church, I go back and can see that there is a lot more to the Christian imagery in Harry Potter. For example, on Harry’s parents’ grave, 1 Corinthians 15:36 is quoted. Harry Potter’s heroic moments in each book follows encounters with Christological symbols and an experience of death and resurrection. For example, in the second book he is poisoned and almost dies, but a phoenix (symbol of Christ/resurrection) comes and saves/heals him. There are a lot of good books out there which talk about the Christian symbols and themes in Harry Potter. But the most obvious Christian theme is that of love, and more specifically, that of John 15:13 (There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend).
Another Eastern Catholic writer, the blogger behind Every Home A Monastery, shares my love of Harry Potter. She wrote a great article talking about Severus Snape’s story for engagetheculture.com, which you can read here.
Links to Other Perspectives
The Byzantine Life
Don’t forget to follow us on social media. On our Pinterest we have boards full of children’s activities and organizing ideas! New posts are always shared to Facebook, and my husband runs our Twitter (@LifeByzantine) and Instagram accounts (username: thebyzantinelife)! And if you want to support our work at TheByzantineLife.com, consider joining us on Patreon. For as little as $5 a month you can get exclusive access to special posts, photos, and updates from our family! https://www.patreon.com/thebyzantinelife