All Saints Day/Halloween

  Surprised at the background image of an angel and on a page about Halloween?  Not what you expect but read on and perhaps you will understand why the pretty angels and not the traditional Halloween figures. 

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   HALLOWEEN:  Trick or Treat?

Debra Coe © 1993 all rights reserved

One of the strongest lessons taught by the Book of Mormon is that the traditions of our fathers plays a very important role as to our own view of right and wrong, good and evil. As a child, I often wondered why the Lamanites usually couldn’t see that their parents and forefathers had just plain been wrong. Why didn’t they just change? Sometimes they did, and sometimes they were more righteous than the Nephites, but often they continued their less righteous traditions.

My first real understanding of just how strong traditions are came as an adult. After only a few years of marriage we moved across the ocean to a foreign country. Our children learned a speak a new language, and attended the country’s version of preschool and later elementary school.   I found everything to be very different from our culture. What fascinated me though was to look at their traditions and realize that some things they did were better. Of course I also looked at some of the new ideas and thought our way was better. We were so used to constantly having everything different, that it was refreshing to go to church and find it and the teachings the same.

This was a big turning point for me in my thinking, It was exciting to look at many of my own traditions and evaluate them for their own merit. One I looked at very carefully was Halloween. This country had no such celebration and my new friends could not understand why we would celebrate such a horrible thing as the underworld. No matter how much I tried to explain that it was just harmless fun, they were not convinced. On the other hand, they had another holiday they celebrated earlier in the year that, while not as bad as Halloween, was not good either. And of course, no matter how much explaining they tried to do, I could not see it as anything but promoting evil.

Upon returning to the United States, suddenly Halloween took on a new face. I had been without it for years at this point. So when that first Trick or Treat time rolled around I just could not bring my self to dress my children up so that they could pretend to be some of the most evil, wicked creatures imagination could conjure up as I had done in years past. In addition, our ward had Primary Halloween party complete with what was described as the "best spook alley around." I won’t go into the details, but virtuous, lovely, of good report or praise worthy would not have been adjectives to describe it. Murderous, gruesome, bloody, etc. would have done a better job.  

I began to wonder if we thought we were giving our children a treat when we celebrated Halloween, when in reality we and our children were being tricked. I became more aware of what was happening in our world as I checked out my theory. I noticed that many movies and Heavy Metal music included the same type of "harmless fun." Comic Books, many children’s stories, and games such as Dungeons and Dragons, carried the same theme. The list does on, but what struck me most was the day I happened to notice the New Age section of our friendly family bookstores. (New Age I learned is another, more palatable name, for witchcraft) There were easily a hundred or more how-to books on witchcraft and/or devil worship. This included the Satanic Bible and Satanic Rituals. Witchcraft was that common! Even more shocking were the number of parents who let their precious children be exposed to so much of this evil – It was after all, "all in fun" and every one knows the witches, devils etc. aren’t real (or are they?)

It is now several years since that first Halloween after returning to the United States. Since then, I have known youth (note the plural) in our own wards who have gotten involved in witchcraft. One has a story so tragic that his involvement almost cost him his life one Halloween night. After a week in intensive care he life was saved, but now his parents are still fighting for his soul. Harmless fun?

We recently returned to that same foreign country. I saw many signs of their beginning to accept Halloween as harmless fun also. Even the store in own little village that catered mostly to local school children carried Halloween stickers last October.

The Book of Mormon refers to witchcraft only twice that I know of. One is in Mormon, he talks about it in chapters 1 and 2 where witchcraft, sorceries and magics are identified as one of the major evils that helped to bring about the destruction of the Nephites. In third Nephi 21:16, it is talking about our day and what will happen to us if we do not repent. He then says that if we do not repent He will cut off various evils and witchcraft is among these. These prophets knew that witchcraft would be a problem in our time.

Halloween began as the biggest witchcraft celebration of the year and as a celebration of the underworld. As time went on it became much worse, moving from a witchcraft celebration to a worship of Satan. During the middle ages, this Satanic worship became an organized cult opposed to the Catholic Church, and of course to Christ Himself. I was amazed at how many of our "harmless" Halloween traditions are directly related to this period and traditions of devil worship.

Even before the holiday turned to Satan worship, the Catholic Church was concerned enough that in the 700’s it chose November 1 as All Saints’ Day hoping that these old traditions would be replaced by something positive. This did work in some places, for example Germany.

Many of the witches of our day would like Halloween to go back to its less evil origins!  An international Witches’ League which has thousands of members, says:

"One of the Witches’ League’s major commitments is to counteract the misunderstanding that has come to surround one of our festive, joyous celebrations, Samhain, or Halloween as it has come to be called. Each year the feast is used to trot out all the inaccurate and degrading myths about the Craft. [when this author refers to witchcraft she is speaking only of what she refers to as the "old Religion" or white magic.] And now there are movements in some communities to abolish it, such as the New Hampshire town where a murderer dressed up like the ghoul on Friday the Thirteenth and actually killed someone. All across the country parents worry about their children on this special night, afraid they will do harm to them. Is there any better proof that mental projections become real? The lurid fantasies and misconceptions of the society now prowl the streets and neighborhoods doing evil.

"In Salem [MA] we send letters to local merchants and shopkeepers in October reminding them that Halloween is the witches’ feast of Samhain, a high holy day and the old Celtic New Year. We encourage them not to decorate their stores and windows with images of repulsive – looking witches with pointed hats, riding broomsticks, and cackling through broken teeth. . . We also discourage images of ghouls, ghosts, Dracula, vampires, Frankenstein, and people with their bodies ripped apart. We point out that there are plenty of colorful Halloween images that are not offensive and that do not play upon society’s fears and pollute the minds of children and adults. Most Salem businesses comply. The ones that do not receive a personal visit by one of our delegates, she tries to educate them as to how their decorations demean Witches and the feast of Samhain while encouraging their children to do mischief. In most cases it is simple ignorance, and people are willing to listen, learn and often take down the offensive images. . ." (emphasis added)

It is a sad commentary when an organization such as this not only recognizes the corrupting influence of these Halloween traditions but also actively works to change them, while many Christians  not only see no harm in them but give Halloween parties complete with horrible, terrifying spook allies.

However many Christian churches offer other types of parties to replace Halloween. One year we saw an ad in the paper from a Baptist church announcing that they were hosting a Noah’s Ark Costume Party during trick-or-treat hours for anyone in the community who wanted to attend. We went and our children had a wonderful time.

These people wanted their children to have fun in a way that would be pleasing to God.  I was very impressed by the spirit of these people, what a great way to let your children and others see that you think always on Christ, no matter what the world is doing.

Rather than having a Halloween party celebrating evil and the selfish indulgence in treats, why not one in which children dress up in costumes representing some good thing they would like to become and where families bring food to be given to the homeless? 

Another idea used by one church congregation was a Heroes Party! 

. Tonight at our ward we put on a positive alternative party called Heroes Harvest Festival. We had lots of nonmembers come who didn't want to celebrate Halloween - I think that is the most nonmembers we have had attend a ward party. Nearly the whole ward came as well. I was so afraid that few people would come because of "traditions of our fathers," but instead it was one of the best attended ward parties ever.  I was in charge as the Primary President and I was so glad to do it. I used to love Halloween but many experiences have changed my mind - to include one 13 year old boy (I visit taught his mother) who went with his friends on Halloween night and they didn't find him for over 24 hours. When they did find him, he was nearly dead from their "Halloween Fun." He spent the next week in the intensive care unit. This was how the parents learned that their son was into Satanic Worship. Well I have many other long stories, but this is not the point. I really just wanted to tell you all about this great party! We decorated in fall colors - red, yellow, and orange. All the kids came in positive costumes and we encouraged them to come as historical heroes which many of them did. For the first 45 minutes we had booths set up and it was more like a carnival with

treats and prizes. Then we had adults and youth dress up as historical

figures and go into different classrooms. Then families went from room to

room and learned some little known facts and got more treats and small toys.

It was fun to see what people came up with - one man came "tarred and

feathered" and told stories of early church history. While they were out of

the cultural hall, we cleaned up the booths and we had 70 huge boxes that we

put all over the floor and stacked on top of each other. When everyone came

back in, we told a story about the stones of the Salt Lake Temple and how the

children used to play hide and seek there when it was being built for 40

years. Of course then we played hide and seek - with the bishopric as the

ones looking. We ended with two Piñatas, one for the older children and one

for the younger children.

 

I was so glad to see that everyone seemed to have a great time! Lots of the

children said that they liked this better than trick or treating and many

people talked about wanting to do this again next year.

 

Well it is late. I'll have to write again soon because I have much to tell

about our last month.

 

Debra Coe

Ddcoe@msn.com

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