Hallowe’en: An Orthodox approach

This post has been around the Internet for several years. I can’t tell who wrote it Originally posted by Steve Lammert, It’s a description of one Orthodox Christian’s approach to how to handle the evening of October 31.

Every year, on Hallowe’en, I sit on the front porch of my house with a bowl of candy, a box of beeswax candles, and a large icon for the Feast of All Saints.

Every child who comes to the house gets a piece of candy, and may also light a candle and place it before the icon. Very few kids (even the jaded teenagers) turn down the opportunity.

For those who ask, I tell them that the meaning of the word “Hallowe’en” is “the eve of the Feast of All Saints”.

If they press me on the point, I tell them that they can think of the true meaning of Hallowe’en as being that, because of Christ, they can dress up like ghosts and goblins and whatnot, because we do not need to fear those things any longer.

I wish I had a few photos of the kids in Satan masks, lighting a candle and placing it before the icon…

Author: Father Silouan Thompson

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  1. I’m glad to stumble upon this post, because I’ve found Halloween rather disturbing lately. I like your perspective…

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  2. What a great Orthodox way to handle the abominable festival! Bravo!!

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  3. If I can get an Icon of All Saints by Saturday I am so totally doing this.

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  4. Brilliant idea! I carved IC XC into a pumpkin a few years back — you’ve inspired me to do it again, and do your idea too! Maybe blast some ‘spooky’ Byzantine chant as well. . .hmmmmmm!

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  5. Thank you for the excellent idea! Our parish is in the middle of a developing neighborhood, with many young families, so we are hoping to try this in the church porch this year. I’ve borrowed your photo and linked here from our parish blog to encourage people to consider this idea.

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  6. I wish you had pictures of the kids in Satan masks lighting candles too. The Devil payin’ mad respect.

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  7. Nice to see that this old idea of mine is still making the rounds. The photo above is from 2004, but I’ve been doing it for at least ten years now.

    Here are some details if you would like to construct your own setup (too late this year, sorry):

    – The icon is from Holy Transfiguration Monastery (http://www.thehtm.org) catalog number A-283. I used size 16×20, and had it mounted by my godfather (an iconographer).
    – I buy the beeswax tapers from our parish now. In the past I used several Orthodox sources on the Internet, but no longer can remember which ones.
    – The candles sit in about 75lb of “play sand” (50lb bag is $5.99 at Toys’R’Us) which fills a wooden planter that I bought at a garden shop some years ago.
    – I prop the whole thing up on a kitchen stool.

    For myself, I think it is important to say as little as possible to the kids. If any really want to know what is going on, they will ask, and then you can decide what to say about it. My experience is that many kids will never have lit a candle before, except perhaps while singing “Silent Night” at Christmas; some will remember it from year to year, and look forward to seeing “the candle guy” again. God knows if it makes a difference, but it can’t hurt for them to have the one opportunity each year.

    Steve Lammert
    Greensburg, PA

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    • Glory to God! I was hoping someone would claim this post :-) I’ve updated the attribution.

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    • hei Stephen, you can just put as many icons of different saints as you can, and lit the candles! It is not necessarily a must that you get one icon of all saints! :)

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  8. Thanks for the idea. We did it this year and it was a great success. Next year I’l make sure to have more than 40 candles. Easily could have used 100.

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  9. This is a wonderful idea. I appreciate having the construction details also. I can’t help but believe that those dressed in demon costumes whose hearts are affected by the experience of lighting candles for God’s saints will think twice about wearing those costumes next year.

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  10. I’m so touched by this. What an intelligent way to expose children to some thing both Orthodox and beautiful, without preaching or seeming to criticize their parents.
    And I very much like your explanation to them, that now we can laugh at the powers of darkness by dressing up as them, as God has rendered them futile and powerless.

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  11. I have been recommending this since it first came to my attention years ago. Glad to learn it was the brain child of Steve Lammert. Many thanks. Halloween has not made great inroads into New Zealand. Our kids are still focused on Guy Fawkes and the excitement of bonfires and fireworks on 5th November.

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  12. While the lighting of the candles is an awesome concept, you obviously know nothing of the origins of Halloween. People light the candles in memory of their ancestors. They wear costumes originally to hide from spirits. Halloween is a corruption of All Hallow’s Eve which is when the veil between the world of the living and the world of the spirits is thinnest and people can communicate with their ancestors. You are sad and disillusioned and you are corrupting too many people. Learn the history of the day. For Pagan’s it’s one of the Holiest days of the year. There is nothing evil about it. Evil is a concept created by man.

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  13. On the other hand, I would remind folks that this might be offensive to practicing non Christians. My next door neighbors are most likely Hindu and I would be pretty aghast if they assembled a shrine and asked or encouraged my children to light a candle. Even my very Christian Baptist friends would be pretty enraged at this scenario.

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    • I’m actually not at all troubled by the idea of offending people through piety and love of God and His saints :-) If we don’t scandalize the world, then we’re probably doing it wrong.

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