All Saints eve…

Another night of plastic ghouls and zombies. Not here though- with very little help or encouragement Will decided he would not indulge in all the Halloween stuff, but rather invite some friends round to a ‘happy party’, where they would celebrate good things. There was no fuss, no angst, no preaching the message of light- just an invitation and lots of lovely kids having fun. They bobbed for apples in freezing cold water, played computer games and sent a sky lantern aloft covered with things they had written about stuff that made them happy.

Bless em all, and the saints that went before them.

And whilst we are on the subject of light here is a lovely poem glimpsed in the Guardian. It is by Francis Belllerby, and in case you have not heard of her (I had not)…

Frances Bellerby, who died in 1975, was born 112 years ago in Bristol. She wrote fiction, essays and poetry. Much of Bellerby’s verse is set in Devon and Cornwall; her first, 1946, collection is named after Plash Mill, her cottage near Upon Cross, on Bodmin Moor. Charles Causley praised, among the many other qualities he admired in her work, her ability to evoke “the ambience and essence of place”.

Bellerby’s poetic locations are coloured by the changing seasons, and may respond to the church calendar, as here. All Souls’ Day, from her Selected Poems, weaves together imaginary and remembered conversation in a hushed, precisely-realised late-autumn setting. The sky is colourless, the “day draws no breath”. Such an atmosphere has an intense, mystical quality for Bellerby. And yet, although a Christian poet, she treats religious experience unconventionally, and seems to have an intuitive grasp of space-time, and the possibility of other dimensions, in those wishful lines: “what the small day cannot hold / must spill into eternity.”

All Souls Day

Let’s go our old way
by the stream, and kick the leaves
as we always did, to make
the rhythm of breaking waves.

This day draws no breath –
shows no colour anywhere
except for the leaves – in their death
brilliant as never before.

Yellow of Brimstone Butterfly,
brown of Oak Eggar Moth –
you’d say. And I’d be wondering why
a summer never seems lost

if two have been together
witnessing the variousness of light,
and the same two in lustreless November
enter the year’s night…

The slow-worm stream – how still!
Above that spider’s unguarded door,
look – dull pearls…Time’s full,
brimming, can hold no more.

Next moment (we well know,
my darling, you and I)
what the small day cannot hold
must spill into eternity.

So perhaps we should move cat-soft
meanwhile, and leave everything unsaid,
until no shadow of risk can be left
of disturbing the scatheless dead.

Ah, but you were always leaf-light.
And you so seldom talk
as we go. But there at my side
through the bright leaves you walk.

And yet – touch my hand
that I may be quite without fear,
for it seems as if a mist descends,
and the leaves where you walk do not stir.

All Saints Eve meal…

We had our monthly Aoradh family day meal tonight- which happened to coincide with the dreaded Halloween.

Dreaded in my case, as I find the increasing madness around Halloween difficult to stomach. The ‘traditions’ we are inheriting are very recent ones- which owe more to 1970’s American films than they do to any folk traditions native to these islands. This does not in itself make them bad- but in this case, I struggle to understand the point of the whole thing.

An evening to dress up as ghosts and mass murderers and walk the streets eating sweets and chocolate…

Actually, when you put it like that, it sounds rather fun doesn’t it?

And that is the other struggle. We took a decision years ago that as Christians, we wanted to keep away from it all. It had too much of the darkness, and not enough of the light. It sided with the wrong half of the tradition- preferring the celebration of devils and demons that was supposed to be a precursor to the celebration of All Saints Day– a day which passes unnoticed.

But this means that our kids have always missed out on the fun bit, although we are certainly much less strict than we used to be- William went to the school disco, and Emily is old enough to make up her own mind.

But then I see some of the things going on, and my resolve stiffens again.

In the middle of Dunoon, a local hall has set up a little fake graveyard. And above it, they have strung some stuffed white sheets, hung from the neck and splashed with red paint. Quite creative really. Certainly a lot of time was taken.

Except that when I saw them, it looked like ‘strange fruit‘.

And also reminded me of the people who killed themselves by hanging over the last year. Relatives of whom may well be driving past…

Tonight, we shared a meal with our Aoradh friends, and it was lovely. To mark the evening, we decided to play a game of pass the parcel.

We turned of the lights, and passed the parcel in the dark, and each layer of the parcel had a candle, and some words about light. The candle was lit, and the words read.

And as the game went on, it got lighter, as more and more candles were lit.

Eventually we got to the middle- a large candle, and some indoor sparklers.

Which we lit, and prayed.

It was simple and profound, and once more made me very grateful for my friends.

Sarah Palin and Halloween…

This made me chuckle on the BBC news page- apparently the most popular costume that people will be wearing to Halloween parties in the US is a Sarah Palin suit and mask.

Check it out here

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | US Elections 2008 | A very political fright night

This kind of begs the question- what is Halloween about? What is it for?

I know you can get all historical and talk about all Hallows eve, which all sorts of Christian traditions had fun with. But then, the point was the relationship to All Saints day. (There is some stuff on Wikipedia digging into the different Christian responses here.)

It is this ridiculous Americanised commercialism that makes me grind my teeth. A celebration of plastic Hollywood ghouls and cuddly devils with strap on horns. What purpose does it serve? What is it about? I know Christmas has become a commercial de-Christianised affair, but at the heart of the secular version (X-mass) you can see some kind of value base- family, good will to all men, the giving of gifts and the stocking of soup kitchens. But Halloween???

You can even accessorise your pooch

You can even accessorise your pooch

And we Brits have bought into this big time. There is a DIY shop in out little town that has cleared half the shop just to make space for all the Haloween tat. Statues and lights and signs.

I am afraid that we have taken a decision to veto Halloween as a festival entirely.  We discussed this with the kids, and tried to have a discussion about how as Christians we do not appreciate the focus on demons and darkness, but as ever, the social pressure to conform and join in the endless round of parties and trick-or-treating is great. The kids end up feeling as though they are missing out, which does not feel good either. They are going to a party tomorrow that tries to celebrate light, but this will not fully compensate.

I think making sacrifices because of decisions made on the basis of ones faith is a good thing, when done with conviction and moderation. But I still wonder whether I am over reacting? Is it really only a bit of fun, a kind of release valve to allow us to take a sideways glance at our fears?

I don’t buy it though. Not even if it comes with free plastic demon horns…

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