Jews celebrate Halloween


In view of such findings, Harald Baer, ​​theologian at the Catholic Social-Ethical Office in Hamm, advises calmness. Halloween is "another experience-intensive event" for the fun generation. “People have discovered a market niche and are now cooking their creepy soup on the light of pumpkin heads”. Baer says: "I think the church should calmly govern this tradition." The sect expert of the German Bishops' Conference, Hans Gasper, described the new trend as a "gimmick" that ties in with the custom of light at St. Martin or Christmas and Advent.

For some church representatives, such interpretations seem too superficial, as they ignore the Christian festival culture and religious customs. The Polish Bishop Stanislaw Stefanek von Lomza railed that "these US thieves are causing confusion". It is humiliating to see how his compatriots imitate something they do not understand (KNA, 23.10.01). The Viennese Christoph Cardinal Schönborn describes Halloween as a "hollow festival" (KNA, 23.10.01). The French Bishop Jean Bonfils of Nice warns of the co-celebration of Halloween. It is the "highest festival of the Satanists in the whole world, and the rites connected with it have nothing in common with Christian culture" (KNA 2.11.99).

Such criticism even has ecumenical qualities. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sweden called for a demonstration against Halloween in 2000. In their opinion, Halloween glorifies “evil, violence and death”. On All Saints' Day, two other religious communities demonstrated with a light procession against the horror festival, as Halloween has become more and more popular and commercial in recent years. (KNA, October 31, 2000). It was not reported whether the demo was used.

But not all Americans find Halloween scary beautiful either. The ghost goes far too far for the fundamentalist groups. Because he found Halloween simply evil, witches and ghosts the work of the devil, Reverent Keenan Roberts of the Abundant Life Center in Arvarda, Colorado, designed an alternative for godly families, the so-called “Hell House”, a “house of hell” tailored to teenagers ". There are six different thematic rooms in it, which are geared to the reality of the visitors and are intended to give a ghostly shock. A homosexual teenager who died of AIDS is buried in one of the rooms. A bloody abortion is staged in another room. Another scene shows a human sacrifice in a satanic cult, etc. The “hell house” is meanwhile - not only in Colorado, but in the American Bible belt - touted as a “spiritual adventure” and constantly updated, for example about adultery, the example of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Church representatives are convinced of their anti-Halloween model: 40 percent of the young visitors repented of their sins and were converted to Christ (KNA, October 26th, 2000).

Ghostly ghost parties, scary spooks and masked parties are not anathema to all church representatives. The Dutch auxiliary bishop Everard de Jong from Roermond, on the other hand, defended Halloween celebrations after a KNA report. Rather, this shows that the younger generation is concerned with the afterlife. Just as Carnival refers to the subsequent Lent, Halloween can prepare for All Saints' Day and All Souls Day. The Dutch Reformed tradition gave too little space to the afterlife. The church must therefore use the Halloween celebrations to explain its view of life after death.

The Munich Salesian Father Alfons Friedrich has published a workbook about Halloween for the Don Bosco Verlag, which he runs, in the series “Celebrating with children”. He recalls that Pope Gregory IV ordered in 837 not to abolish the customs of the pagans but to Christianize them. The Celtic Feast of the Dead on October 31st had become All Saints' Day and All Souls Day on the eve of All Saints Day. In the Middle Ages, "soul cake" was demanded on this day, a square pastry with currants. The recipients promised to pray for the deceased loved ones. Cordula Pertler and Eva Reys, lecturers at the Academy for Social Pedagogy in Munich, authors of the Halloween book at Don Bosco Verlag, argue: Halloween could certainly have serious educational concerns. On Halloween, children could “finally be big and strong, even overpowering”, and play tricks on adults in the role of ghosts and be the “determiners” instead of being directed around. In addition, the little ones conquered “the night and its dark forces”. They learned through play to cope with their fears. The US import of customs also has the effect of uniting peoples: it brings the worlds of culture closer together (KNA, October 27, 2000).

In 2001, the youth pastoral care of the Archdiocese of Cologne called all spirits between the ages of 15 and 20 together in Haus Altenberg for a major ecumenical event. And behold, around 200 witches, monsters, skeletons and ghosts billowed up. “With this film night we want to combine Halloween with All Saints' Day,” said Robby Heller of the initiative. “Among other things, young people should think about their fears. Halloween is about demons, ghosts and therefore also about fear. On All Saints' Day, Catholics commemorate the deceased and venerate their saints. Death is not the end, which is why one should not be afraid of it ”(KStA, 02.11.01). Not everyone was impressed by the “exotic nonsense from America” that drove the “great Martin from Wittenberg” into the background on Reformation Day (KStA, 11/08/01). “Why don't we stick to our good German festivals, which are all related to our faith?” Asked another reader (KiZ Cologne, November 2nd, 2001). Another reader fears that "such pagan festivals" will "unconsciously encourage the spreading occult practices" (KiZ, 02.11.01).

What does this finding teach us? Is Halloween really deserted by all good spirits?

First of all, the discussion of the appearance of event-hungry, made-up youth cults as foolish Frankensteins should remind us of an old teacher's wisdom: ignore the negative, praise the good. It has been shown that it is educationally nonsensical to brand and condemn wrong behavior. It is smarter to make the right thing shine. From this follows: There is no point in getting excited about Halloween or even publicly referring to the front. On the contrary: the public conflict is what makes the phenomenon interesting. Therefore, press inquiries of the type: “What excites you the most on Halloween?” Are necessary for the media to problematize Halloween. For the church, this type of reporting, which it has to stylize as a spoiler, is simply counterproductive. You make yourself usable for the wrong strategy. Since the conflict is a prerequisite for media treatment, if there is no conflict, there will be no reporting.

Refraining from publicly waging a battle that cannot be won against a barely tangible phenomenon does not mean accepting the phenomenon. It is more constructive, active and positive to criticize the phenomenon: Halloween is slapstick, “winter carnival”, party gag. The festival does not show the slightest reverence for the dead, of whom we will soon also belong. The festive elements have no content, are just form, only recognizable by a foggy background foil, a fun factor.

I like the media reaction of a pastor from the Archdiocese of Cologne, for example: Dean Gerhard Dane from the Erftkreis dean's office reminds us of the distinction between All Saints 'Day and All Souls' Day. The first is the feast of all saints, but not of all dead. All Saints' Day remember the saints, with the unknown saints in the foreground. They are those who have already arrived at their destination, heaven. All Souls' Day remembered the dead, brought into being by Abbot Odilo of Cluny. From 998 onwards, Cluny and the monasteries under it began to commemorate the deceased on November 2nd. All souls remember the deceased who are still on their way to heaven. Not everyone goes straight to heaven after death. Rather, people would have to work up something and would have to go through a clarification and purification. In his deanery there is a blessing of the graves in every parish on All Saints' Day, in some places also connected with a procession through the city (KR, 01.11.00).

It would be too cheap to ignore the critical question in our context: Are we Christians doing enough ourselves to give people today access to their vocation as saints? Do we teach and demonstrate that we living are only a small subset of all of humanity? Humanity and human solidarity always include those who have already died and those who have not yet been born! Do we include human life, dying and death in religion and society, or do we Christians also shorten our being? Do we use festivals such as All Saints 'Day, All Souls' Day, the Sunday of the Dead, but also individual deaths - in the full range - to address Christians, "faithful far removed from the Church" and non-Christians? Or do we content ourselves with celebrating liturgies that have not been understood, rites that seem strange, reciting unexplored formulas, and do we not mean to exculpate ourselves sometimes?

Throwing in on Halloween, your own inadequacy, perhaps even in spite of zealous efforts to ignore it, does not solve any problems. Halloween is an indicator that in our society superficiality triumphs, fun dominates. One can - just - get angry about that. But you don't have to. One can also use this knowledge to draw attention to the deficits, to make offers to expand understanding. Retreating into a ghetto of the pure does not correspond to a Christian mandate. Those who only look for the catechumens in the vestibule of the church and are not ready to pick them up in their pagan environment do not want to act as leaven in this society. Leaven that is not mixed with the dough will spoil. Sourdough is not enough by itself.

Reprinted from: Living Faith. Magazine for Women in Churches and Religious Orders, Volume 77, October 2002.