Anyway. I was delighted to hear this from Canon Angela Tilby on Thought for the Day this morning (which I accidentally managed to catch). The programme isn't available to listen to yet so I transcribed it:
Halloween’s become a big retail opportunity, third in rank, apparently, behind Christmas and Easter. This is a recent phenomenon: when I was growing up it was Guy Fawkes Night I looked forward to. Halloween parties were rare and rather mild events: bobbing for apples and perhaps a pumpkin was all that really happened. But today the fun is incomplete without skeleton t-shirts, crooked hats, and swirly-topped cupcakes with ghost eyes. Since Halloween took off the Churches have complained about it, suggesting that it encourages dangerous beliefs in the occult, that it’s frightening, negative, and, of course, another excuse for spending money. An Australian bishop drew a contrast this year between what he dismissed as a made-up festival about death, and Easter, a real-world festival about life. But I think that contrast is too stark. It’s simply not true that Halloween is ‘made-up’, a product of secular times. All Hallows Eve is the prelude to the feast of All Saints, when the Church remembers its heroes and heroines, men and women whose lives were transparently holy. It’s as the backdrop to that holiness that Halloween comes into its own. Halloween is the demonic ride of the unquiet dead, of all that surrounds and threatens us from the buried world, the anarchy of spirits that have lost their way, the pumpkin-head with its orange light challenging the golden haloes of the saints: So you were good? So what. All comes to nothing in the end. I think the problem is that Christian faith has become too bland, too ordinary, to deal with the dark side of life: there’s so much emphasis on welcome, affirmation, inclusion, accessibility, living life positively in the here and now, that we don’t know any more how to deal with mysterious threats from the realm of the dead. It wasn’t always so. Look at our ancient cathedrals and you’ll see all sorts of reminders of the buried world: gargoyles and demon-heads, Green Men staring through thick strands of foliage, imps’ faces as doorknockers. The unquiet dead are around and within us, and part of the Church’s job is to guide us through our relationship with our buried lives, showing us how to contain the chaos – not least, perhaps, by letting it come out in the mocking forms you’ll see tomorrow night. The dark flying things represent our own mourning for the lives we haven’t lived, our guilt at the deaths we haven’t mourned, our dread that our destructiveness could destroy us. In the light of these dark truths the lives of saints become all the more remarkable; they’ve seen through the veils of illusion to a final coherence, a unity of all things in love. So, a scary Halloween for tomorrow, and a glorious All Saints for Thursday.
I was astonished to be led from this piece to the Australian bishop who Revd Tilby has a mild poke at, and he turns out to be Robert Forsyth, the Bishop of Sydney. I can't find out whether he did actually use the po-faced soundbite the Australian media has ascribed to him; instead what he really says in this interview on an Australian Christian radio show is actually amazingly mild on the topic of Halloween. If that's the opinion of the ultra-conservative evangelical diocese of Sydney, there's hope for the whole Church. Or perhaps they're saner in Australia.