Two Sides of Halloween
Is it fun or scary?
by Vicky Scott (revised, originally published in 2010)
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To encourage us to enjoy Halloween in a constructive way.
Preparation and materials
- You will need one large pumpkin that has two different faces carved into it on opposite sides. On one side, there should be a typically scary face; on the other side, there should be an alternative face that is friendly or even funny.
Before the assembly starts, make sure that the scary face of the pumpkin is showing, and the friendly or funny face is concealed. When appropriate, you can present the alternative face.
- In the Christian calendar, on 1 November, many people around the world celebrate All Saints’ Day. The official name for this day is the Feast of All Saints, often shortened to All Saints, and also called All Hallows’ Day or Hallowmas.
The word ‘Hallowmas’ comes from ‘hallow’ meaning ‘saint’ and ‘mas’ meaning ‘mass’. The preceding evening, Halloween, on 31 October, is also known as the Vigil or Eve of All Hallows.
- Christians use the word ‘saint’ to represent a person who has lived a life of exceptional holiness, and All Saints’ Day celebrates those saints. For example, Peter and Paul in the Bible are well-known as saints, but All Saints’ Day also celebrates those lesser-known saints from all over the world.
- So, 31 October is the date of All Hallows’ Eve or Halloween, and that’s why you can see a pumpkin up at the front here. Displaying a pumpkin and trick-or-treating are just some of the ways in which people mark Halloween. The evening is associated with witches, ghosts and all things spooky. People have always been fascinated about what happens to us after we die, and this evening is a focus for our fears and imaginings.
- In folklore and popular culture, there is a link between pumpkins and warding off evil spirits. Throughout the UK and Ireland, there is a long tradition of carving lanterns from vegetables, particularly the turnip or swede. The carved lantern did not become associated specifically with Halloween until 1866, and this happened in North America. However, in the USA, the carved pumpkin was first associated with the harvest season in general, long before it became an emblem of Halloween.
- Therefore, as an alternative to the scary face carved into this pumpkin, why not carve a more positive, friendly face like this one?
Turn round the pumpkin to show the other face.
That way, you could show a different side to Halloween.
- Across Europe, people choose to remember saints positively and to learn from their examples.
In English-speaking countries, All Saints’ Day is traditionally celebrated with the hymn ‘For all the saints who from their labours rest’, which was written by an Anglican bishop called William Walsham How and first printed in a hymn book in 1864.
- Some people see Halloween as a bit of fun. They enjoy trick-or-treating, and they look forward to it each year. Other people find Halloween frightening. Some older people don’t like strangers knocking on their doors, and some children are frightened by the masks and costumes.
- Encourage the students to think about their response to Halloween and to respect people’s views, being sensitive to others’ feelings.
Time for reflection
Read the following quotation by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Goodness is stronger than evil;
Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness;
Life is stronger than death;
Victory is ours through him who loves us.
Halloween and All Saints’ Day are two events that are normally seen as opposites. One traditionally celebrates all that is dark and evil, and the other all that is holy and good. However, it is possible to act wisely and still enjoy Halloween, remembering that the next day – All Saints’ Day – provides an opportunity to be thankful for those who have lived exceptionally good lives, and to be inspired to try to be more like them.
Thank you for all those who have lived a good life on this earth,
Demonstrating selfless love and kindness.
This Halloween, help us to focus on that which is good,
Always remembering that goodness is stronger than evil.
‘For all the saints who from their labours rest’, available at: https://youtu.be/ffM1jNA6BuU (4.04 minutes long)