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Halloween Meant for Playful Appreciation

First published in the Oct. 28 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.

Rev. Jeffrey D. S. Thornberg is the rector at Church of Our Savior.

Each year it appears that seasonal lawn decorations are more common and more elaborate in our immediate surroundings.
As a child, it always seemed that Christmas decorations were the main event. As a youth, I watched “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” on more occasions than I should ever admit to in writing, and our front lawn (as well as our electric bill) reflected that reality.

Yet, Halloween seems to be the draw these days. Upon reflection, this makes great sense.
The Feast of All Saints was established by the Christian Church in order to remember martyrs who were brutalized and killed in the Roman pantheon for their faith. Almost more than 1,500 years later, 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 remember all of the faithfully departed, whether or not they have or will ever be recognized by a church much less the universal 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 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 the monotheistic perspective, Halloween is an opportunity to poke fun at the shadows and dark places in our lives in order to live with faith and not fear. Playfulness is often the best medicine in a scary world.
Of course, I do not need to teach my daughters this lesson. Without instruction, they will play out their hopes and fears this Halloween. Their play will most likely assist with their awareness of who they are and how the world works. As an adult, there seems even more to be fearful of. I wonder how you and I might playfully remind ourselves that the only thing to fear is fear itself?


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