Darker evenings, pumpkins in the shops, leaves on the ground, and aisles of the supermarkets suddenly filled with cheap acrylic monster costumes – it must be Halloween!
When I was growing up in a small, Kentish village with a dominating parish church, Halloween was irrelevant to my life. Living in a Christian family in a Christian community, my autumn was punctuated by Harvest, Bonfire Night, Advent and then Christmas, but never Halloween. I never went trick or treating, instead attending the Light parties in the church hall. Halloween just wasn’t important to me, or any of the people I knew. Comparing notes with other Christians my age, they share similar histories. Our parents and communities kept Halloween away from us, but that is not the case in 2017.
As the world becomes smaller, more intimately connected by social media and the power of the internet, the American influence of Halloween has only increased in the last few years. Many of the children we meet day to day in school are not familiar with Harvest or Advent, but are, even at a young age, nostalgically connected with Halloween. They hear about harvest and advent at school in their assemblies, or maybe if their school takes a trip to the local church for a special service, but Halloween is the one that they see at home. Their parents buy them costumes, their brothers and sisters take them trick or treating, and last year, their phones and social media accounts whipped them up into a terrified hype about killer clowns. Halloween is important to young children – it’s a time for their family, for fun, for costumes and treats, but also for fear and sometimes, confusion. The church cannot ignore Halloween and hope it goes away. It’s hold is only growing stronger as these children grow up with a lifetime of halloweens behind them.
That lifetime of Halloween may impact them in different ways; for many it will include “fun fright” experiences. For some it will include viewings of themed movies; from the innocuous to the downright horrifying. For the 95% of young people who are not in church, their first introduction to the world of the spiritual will come from Halloween. It will come from ghosts and witches and zombies and demons. As a church, we have a responsibility to see that their spiritual education expands. But how do we meet their needs? Many of you will have grown up like I did, unaware of Halloween, entrenched instead in Christian communities, or maybe even growing up in a time in British culture when Halloween was nothing more than a bit of apple bobbing and face paint. How can we engage with children who are being raised on Halloween?
Well, we can start with a discussion about it! Jonathan Greenaway is an academic at Manchester Metropolitan University at the Gothic Studies department, and specialises in horror and theology. (He also happens to be my husband!) In my house, the topic of halloween, horror and the Christian response is often on the table, and so we have decided to open that topic up to youth workers, church leaders, and basically anyone who is interested in engaging with young people on this level.
We are holding a seminar at St. Marys Church, Cheadle, on Wednesday 1st of November at 7pm.
We hope that this will be a really helpful opportunity to discuss some of these questions. We have an eventbrite page, please just follow this link to book your place. The event is free of charge. We look forward to seeing you there!
Let’s discuss the Halloween generation!