Hallowe’en or, to give it its proper name, All Hallows Eve (the evening before All Saints Day on 1 November) brings out differing feelings in people. Quite apart from those who embrace the fun aspect of the day without considering its darker side, there are those who are fearful and/or angry. Many Christians are aware that they should have some sort of response without knowing how to, ending up cross and confused whilst often feeling a little guilty. (And here I add my own wish to hide behind the curtain when we get the inevitable ring on the doorbell!) Often any Christian response can be, or seem to be of the ‘holier than thou’ spoilsport type which does nothing for our community relations.
Last year I was touched and encouraged by a letter in the Church of England Newspaper:
Two weeks ago Catherine Fox (a regular columnist on the newpaper) suggested a notice to go outside the house on Hallowe’en, talking about not doing Trick or Treat this year but giving the money to charity. So only, the note ended, ring this door bell if you want to make a charitable donation.
That really appealed to me so in church on the Sunday before I announced that I was going to do just that, and asked if anybody would like a copy for their own house. I didn’t get any takers, but I did get a few suggestions that I was mad and that what I was actually doing was inviting an egg or a bag of flour through the letterbox. I went ahead and did it anyway.
At about 7.00pm on Hallowe’en there was a ring at the door – three young girls were outside dressed as witches with short, frilly black skirts. They’d got a big bag of sweets that they’d been given but they also had a handful of small coins which they wanted me to have. They thought they might have dropped some on the floor because there wasn’t quite as much as they thought, and I said I’d look in the daylight next day. About 10 minutes later they were back; they’d found the missing money.
We went out for an hour or so soon after that, and when we got back there were a load more coins on the mat; they’d collected more and wanted to give that too – they called round next day to make sure we’d found it all. Altogether they’d collected £6.50. I said I’d match that, and that we’d give it to Christian Aid.
I told the church last Sunday what had happened and more people donated – today I’ve just sent a cheque to Christian Aid for £40.00.
The Rev Tony Williams
(10 November 2006)
It is worth bearing in mind that it is children who are most involved with Hallowe’en activities. Therefore, we will be putting a notice on our door for contributions to go to The Children’s Society. Thus we are not saying an unfriendly ‘no’ but a much more positive ‘thank you’. In addition any leaflet or conversation we had on the doorstep would be much more likely to get a good response. The Children’s Society has sent me some lovely postcards and small booklets telling about their work which I intend to hand out. I am not sure whether or not we will get a response but it will be interesting to see.
The notice on our door will read:
TRICK OR TREAT?
Are you having fun?
Life isn’t much fun for many children.
This year we are collecting for the Children’s Society who do lots of good work to help children in need.
Please knock if you would like to donate money to help children who have difficult lives.
Since I wrote this piece in late September for our October church magazine, there has been a call from the Rt Revd David Gillett, Bishop of Bolton, calling for supermarkets to play down the darker side of Hallowe’en. He and Hallowe’enChoice (an incentive of the Diocese of Manchester) are also asking that donations of a cash ‘treat’ to be sent to the Children’s Society.