A Halloween assembly
by Brian Radcliffe
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To encourage us to consider our reactions to scary activities and horror movies.
Preparation and materials
- You will need a leader and one reader.
Leader: It’s nearly Halloween and I’m sure many of you will have plans. These plans may involve spooky costumes, trick-or-treat and even binge-watching horror movies. Pumpkin lanterns will be visible in many windows, casting weird, flickering shadows across the street.
Halloween has its origins in the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced ‘sow-in’). It was seen as the one day when the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. It was a day on which to be scared.
Reader: But why do we enjoy being scared? It’s crazy! Why do we dabble in what we fear, even if only for a day? I can picture myself hiding under a blanket, heart in my mouth, and the nightmares will haunt me for weeks.
Leader: I know it seems like a ridiculous way to behave, but there’s something to be said for a little controlled fear in our lives.
Reader: If you say so. Can you give me an example?
Leader: How many of you enjoy riding a roller-coaster at a theme park? (Take a show of hands.) Why do you do it? I think it’s because we all have a part of us that wants to feel the nervousness before we start and to be able to control it. We’re pushing the fear barrier a little further away by not letting it stop us. Then there’s the adrenaline rush when we’re in the middle of the ride and finally the relief when it ends. It’s exhilarating. We’re on a high for the rest of the day. It’s the same with extreme sports like rock climbing and skiing. It’s the same as when we were young children and we first rode a bike or leapt into an adult’s arms. We accept the danger and the fear because we know that we’ll feel amazing afterwards.
That’s also what Halloween is about. Among the laughs and the crazy costumes, there might be an element of fear involved. What does the darkness hide? Are ghosts real? Is there a supernatural element to life? Horror movies can be a common part of this experience. Some films dramatize an occult world, whereas others imagine a twisted humanity that stalks in the shadows. They’re a little bit of controlled fear that we allow into our lives.
Time for reflection
Reader: So, it’s all OK then?
Leader: I think the key word is ‘controlled’. Most of the time, we can experience the fear and put it behind us a few hours later. We control the fear rather than the fear controlling us. However, that’s not the case for everyone all of the time.
Unfortunately, for some people, the fear can cause a lingering emotional disturbance. It may take the form of nightmares or terrors, or it may present as a fear of certain situations or of being alone, and sometimes even as paranoia. This can last for a whole lifetime. For others, viewing the horror may create empathy with a violent perpetrator. They want to become the one who creates the fear in others. In a sadistic way, they begin to enjoy bringing in the horror. In both of these instances, the situation has gone out of control. Minds become full of the horror.
Reader: So, how can I enjoy Halloween and horror movies while still remaining in control?
Leader: I’d suggest that, first of all, you get to know your limits. These may not be identical for everyone. Our differing ages and experiences as we’ve grown up mean that a situation or movie that one person can laugh off in seconds can cause fear and deep trauma in another. We know what disturbs us, what causes nightmares. We need to accept it and not feel apologetic if this differs from our friends.
Second, we should never allow others to push us into places we don’t want to go. You have every right to decline an invitation that makes you feel uncomfortable. We don’t need to watch something or take part in something simply because our friends do. Similarly, we shouldn’t pressurize another person when we can see that they feel uncomfortable. What’s a laugh for us may be deeply disturbing for them. We’re all different and we need to respect that.
Finally, we could also take a positive approach. Halloween literally means ‘the eve of All Hallows’. All Hallows, the day after Halloween, is a day when Christians remember the wonderful people who have died, usually in the previous year, and celebrate all that was good about these precious people. It’s not about fearing the ghosts of the dead, it’s about remembering how they made us laugh, taught us, loved us and left us with a good example to follow. Filling our minds with these thoughts might help us to control our fears. It might help us to make the best choices about how we spend the end of this month and the start of the next.
Thank you that Jesus tells us that death and darkness need not make us fear.
Remind us of this whenever we face a situation that disturbs us.
May we be able to control our reaction and grow through new experiences.
May we seek to keep others safe from harm.
May we look for the good in every situation.
‘Ghostbusters’ by Ray Parker, Jr. A version is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaV1r341wYk (4.05 minutes long)