Written by Adam Kline

As a pastor, being confronted by death is a regular occurrence. Several times a year I’m called upon to offer support to grieving families, to join them in their mourning, and prepare a funeral liturgy that acknowledges their loss and offers hope. It is, without a doubt, one of the heaviest responsibilities of the pastorate, and yet, is some of the most fulfilling and meaningful work within Christian ministry.

Nowadays most people want to schedule wakes, services, and burials on the weekend, when it’s most convenient for everyone. We no longer want death to be an interruption. Far fewer children attend wakes and funerals because we fear what early exposure might bring.

We want to process the pain quickly, and then carry on with our lives. And yet, Jesus never modelled such fear or distance from death. He embraced the pain, didn’t rush the mourning process (John 11), and regularly confronted the realities of evil, darkness, and death (Mark 1:21-34; 5:35-36).

In my view, All Hallows Eve affords followers of Jesus the opportunity to face evil and pain as He did. All Hallows Eve (or Halloween) has its roots in the Church, and was originally, a healthy (and holy) recognition of evil’s ultimate demise in Christ. It was an occasion to make a mockery of darkness and death.

In medieval Ireland, Scotland, and England, All Hallows Eve first became a Christian practice of prayer and merriment. At that time children would go door-to-door and sing: “Soul, soul, an apple or two, if you haven’t an apple, a pear will do, one for Peter, two for Paul, three for the Man who made us all.”

The tradition of All Hallows Eve emerged from an era when death was a serious and acceptable meditation.

Christian art from that period shows skulls and bones as commonplace for interior decoration, at least in the cells of the convents and monasteries. And while contemporary commercialism whitewashes many rituals and festivals of their true meaning, history teaches us there is more to the story.

There is something redeemable and meaningful about this cultural tradition we call Halloween. And as followers of Jesus, every October, we’re given an open invitation to join with our neighbours in the fun and festivities. To welcome strangers at our front door, to decorate, dress up and bear witness to the fact that, in Christ we need not fear, because death will not have the last word!

The victory has been won, a way has been made, and in His way, there is freedom. Freedom to call out and confront the forces of evil, and to even recognise the catharsis that some scary stories provide. Some of the most successful films today are horror movies, and they can be found playing at the multiplex throughout the entire year.

The artistry and craft of scary movies has become more widely appreciated in recent years, not just because of jump-scares, but because of the thoughtful engagement with serious subject matter. In many popular horror films, the thematic through-line involves some sort of repressed trauma, or a grief and loss that remains unreconciled.

Filmmaker and follower of Jesus, Scott Derrickson, in an interview with Fuller Seminary, shared that even the process of writing horror has been a way of confronting his own fears; and that can be seen across the genre. So many of these stories are about a search for closure, of people passing through the pain, and experiencing a sense catharsis in a communal way; kind of like a funeral.

As Christians, we can connect these explorations of pain and fear to the ultimate victory we receive through Christ. Whether that be the catharsis of a scary story, or the opportunity to bear witness to neighbours asking for candy at the front door, or simply allowing the loss of a loved one to appropriately interrupt your days. May these seasons of darkness not be ignored, but entered into without fear, so that the love and light of Christ may shine through.