Spotlight Theme: Halloween
Good stories can give us space in our lives to pause and ponder some bolt of beauty, some truth, or some new way of looking at life. It is what I call, the Story Souvenir.
Souvenir is a French word, meaning to remember. So, it is some nugget of truth or some glimmer of truth about what it means to be human that will linger with us long after the last word is uttered – it is what our heart will remember most.
Each month we will pick one story for you to pause and ponder with your little listener – some discussion questions and some background about the country where the story takes place.
For this month’s episode, instead of focusing on a country, we are focusing on the theme of this month’s special playlist – Halloween – by sharing this article I wrote some years ago for teachers and parents.
The Origin of Halloween
Every Halloween, it seems, I come across some students or parents who are unaware of the roots of this holiday.
I love reading scary, spooky Halloween stories to children at this
time of year, but I am always surprised at the number of students who are completely unaware of the roots of this holiday, and even of the derivation of the word itself. At a recent school visit, in answer to my question about the meaning of hallow, the only child who raised his hand to answer, said, “empty,” obviously confusing it with hollow.
I suppose that is not at all surprising, given the number of people in the media who pronounce it “Holloween.”
When I lived in America, I found that some teachers and parents were somewhat wary of focusing, or even of acknowledging the ghoulish aspect of this holiday, while some go so far as to maintain that it is at odds with the Christian Faith.
However, I think it provides a wonderful opportunity to talk to children about the whole notion of good versus evil. Here is what I tell the children before I launch into my stack of spooky stories.
Halloween means Holy Evening from the old English- Hallow – Holy, and een –contraction of eve or evening. Of course, as most people know (or at least I think they do), this holiday has its roots in the ancient Celtic/Druid/ belief that this was the time of year when evil spirits roamed the earth. In order to keep the dark forces at bay, people dressed up in costumes to “fool” the wandering souls. With the advent of Christianity, the Celts still retained many of their ancient rituals (jack o lantern to ward off the evil spirits, dressing up in costumes and going from house to house – guising) and simply blended them into their newfound Christian practices – going to Mass to celebrate the lives of the Saints and offering up special prayers for the dead.
Incidentally, the reason St. Patrick was so successful at bringing Christianity to Ireland, was that the Celtic people were already completely attuned to the idea of “other worlds” – Heaven and Hell, because they already believed in the “little people,” and they already knew that often times that which you cannot see is actually more real than what you can see.
On this Hallowed night then, I think it is good to read a ghost story or two, because the next day on the glorious feast of All Saints (one of my favorite holy days), I know that I will say a special prayer to all those “big” saints like Patrick and Joseph, Teresa and Bridget who filled this world with their goodness and grace and light. And I will pray also to all those “little” saints – all those holy men and women who have touched my life with their particular goodness, grace, and light – my mum and my dad, all my dear Irish aunties and uncles, and even those wonderful writers, like C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, and Thomas Merton, whose words continue to feed and nourish me.
To miss this opportunity of sharing with children that we know without a shadow of a doubt that goodness and grace will
always trump the forces of evil and darkness, would indeed make this a very “hollow” festival!
So, light the lanterns, tell the spooky tales, don the wizards’ robes and witches’ hats, and have a …
Happy HALLOW –EEN!
If you want some more slightly spooky Halloween stories from our podcast, check out these ones below.
Thanks to all of you who send us your listeners’ drawings – if you haven’t already done so, get in touch with us at https://journeywithstory.com/contact/ and let us know your listener’s favorite story and do send us their drawings and letters so we can share.
Join me next month for November’s Spotlight Story.