A Guide to Hallowtide
Celebrating Hallowtide Like a Christian and Not a Pagan
Skip the glorification of evil and the witch’s rides. Here’s your guide to celebrating Hallowtide.
As most of you know, a part of my project is the topic of re-enchanting time. For those who don’t know, I wrote an entire book about it. That’s been received well by most who have come across it, except by certain kinds of people who are stuck on the “what” instead of the “why.” The biggest pushback I’ve gotten thus far is that many Christians just can’t understand “why” I’d be in support of celebrating Halloween. It’s the devil’s day, ya know? Or at least that’s what all the crunchy moms who like to quote Anton Lavey this time of year say.
Well, for those who are confused, let me put it on the record once more why I’m for celebrating Halloween. Not only is Halloween not a pagan holiday, but even more important is that time doesn’t belong to the devil. It belongs to Christ. He is the king of kings and the lord of lords. He is the Lord of Time, and there’s not a square inch of creation — which includes time, in which He does claim as His. That’s the reason “why” I’m in favor of celebrating Halloween.
Yes. Shriek in terror! Mark and avoid me, if you must. Rate my book 2 stars on Amazon and write a review about how I’m disenchanting time.
However, what cannot be avoided is the proposition I've put forward: If Christ is not the Lord of the Seasons, then you have a limited understanding of what it means for Christ to be Lord. To those individuals, I often pose a simple question: What, precisely, is Christ Lord over? Sadly, more often than not, I'm met with blank stares. For those who shriek in terror, it’s unfortunate that their theology of Lordship doesn’t extend far beyond their Aldi’s shopping cart or their fair trade, organic essential oils for the headaches that I give them.
I apologize. I’m feeling particularly Chestertonian today. But any who, moving on. This essay isn’t about “why” I’m for celebrating Halloween. If you’re interested in that, you can pick up my book. There are chapters in there — Chapters 1 and 2, in particular, that gets into the nuts and bolts of “why.” This essay, however, is more about the “what” and “how” of celebrating Halloween, and particularly, how to do it without celebrating like a pagan.
The What and How of Hallowtide
Hallowtide marks a significant three-day period in the autumn season. Also known as the Autumnal Triduum, these days include Halloween on October 31st, followed by All Saints Day on November 1st, and culminating with All Souls Day on November 2nd. This period prompts us to reflect upon Psalm 90:12, encouraging us to number our days and pay homage to those who have preceded us in their spiritual journey.
On the eve of All Hallows, commonly known as Halloween, we are drawn to contemplate our eventual transition to the Church Triumphant, also known as the Eschatological Church. It's a time to meditate on our own impermanence and the inevitable reality that we too shall pass on.
All Saints Day is dedicated to honoring the revered saints and martyrs who have entered glory before us, forming the illustrious Great Cloud of Witnesses. On this day, we ponder their devout lives, their unwavering focus on Christ, and draw parallels to our own spiritual paths.
Lastly, All Souls Day is a time to commemorate all the souls who have walked in faith before us, particularly those who have left a lasting impression on our lives. It's a poignant reminder that regardless of one's stature or significance, the circle of life and death encompasses all.
When it comes to the actual practice, the approach is relatively uncomplicated. In my personal devotion, I take the time on Halloween to reflect on the fleeting nature of life, while also acknowledging that because of Christ's triumphant defeat of the powers of darkness — death has lost its sting (Also, see my friend Rich Tuttle’s Trick or Treating Liturgy over at). On All Saints Day, I often delve into readings like The Golden Legend, which is a collection of stories about various saints, or I might choose a book dedicated to one of the saints I deeply admire from church history. As for All Souls Day, it's a day of remembrance for me. I commemorate family members and friends who have gone to be with the Lord.
Additionally, during these days, I am committed to praying the Daily Office from the 2019 Book of Common Prayer, which are prayers that the saints have prayed for centuries during this time of year.
What About Reformation Day?
Some might wonder, "What about Reformation Day? Do you not align with Reformational beliefs?" To clarify, I certainly identify with Reformational principles. However, it's crucial to recognize that Martin Luther did not set out with the aim of establishing a "new" church. His primary goal was to bring about reform within the existing one, universal, catholic church. Luther's 95 Theses served as a call to reflect on aspects of the church that required reform. When he famously nailed his work to the doors of All Saints Chapel in Wittenburg, Luther's contention was not against the observance of Hallowtide. Instead, he challenged the superstitious notion that merely rattling coins could liberate souls from purgatory and that the pope could grant pardon.
Luther personally addressed this topic, noting:
In They preach man who say that so soon as the penny jingles into the money-box, the soul flies out [of purgatory].
It is certain that when the penny jingles into the money-box, gain and avarice can be increased, but the result of the intercession of the Church is in the power of God alone.
Who knows whether all the souls in purgatory wish to be bought out of it, as in the legend of Sts. Severinus and Paschal.
No one is sure that his own contrition is sincere; much less that he has attained full remission.
Rare as is the man that is truly penitent, so rare is also the man who truly buys indulgences, i.e., such men are most rare.
They will be condemned eternally, together with their teachers, who believe themselves sure of their salvation because they have letters of pardon.
Men must be on their guard against those who say that the pope’s pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to Him;
For these “graces of pardon” concern only the penalties of sacramental satisfaction, and these are appointed by man.
They preach no Christian doctrine who teach that contrition is not necessary in those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessionalia.
Every truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without letters of pardon.
Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has part in all the blessings of Christ and the Church; and this is granted him by God, even without letters of pardon.
Thus, in light of this, I see no issue in incorporating Reformation Day into the Hallowtide observance. In fact, I believe they complement each other harmoniously. Hallowtide prompts us to meditate on the truth found in Scripture alone that those who are God's are justified solely by His grace alone, achieved solely through faith alone, and anchored solely in Christ alone, all for the singular purpose of glorifying God alone.
It's also imperative to recognize that Luther's decision to present his 95 Theses was both strategic and symbolic. He selected All Saints Chapel as the venue and deliberately timed it to coincide with the commencement of the Hallowtide Triduum. For Luther, his call for reform was emblematic of God's illuminating light dispelling the shadows that had ensnared the church.
James Jordan notes this in his essay Concerning Halloween. He writes:
Thus, the defeat of evil and of demonic powers is associated with Halloween. For this reason, Martin Luther posted his 95 challenges to the wicked practices of the Church to the bulletin board on the door of the Wittenberg chapel on Halloween. He picked his day with care, and ever since Halloween has also been Reformation Day.
In essence, the celebration of Hallowtide is not merely a fleeting holiday tradition but a profound reflection of our faith and beliefs. While many may misconstrue or oversimplify its significance, a deep dive into its history and theological roots reveals its true essence. The intertwining of Hallowtide and Reformation Day beautifully encapsulates the core tenets of Christianity—remembrance, reflection, and reverence for God's dominion over time. Martin Luther's symbolic gesture on Halloween underscores the importance of reclaiming and sanctifying time in the name of Christ. As we navigate the modern world with its myriad interpretations and celebrations, let us remember and uphold the true spirit of these observances, recognizing Christ as the Lord of all seasons and the ultimate redeemer of time.