31 October – All Hallows Eve – and it’s an in between kind of time.
In between because late autumn the year turns, the clocks tick back, and we resign ourselves to the temporary dying of nature as the leaves swirl down the streets towards winter and the end of another year.
In between the liturgical marking of Harvest and Advent, we sit in the season of remembering: All Saints, All Souls and the red of Remembrance. Christian faith has so much to say about the living and the dead, and about the saints – both the common or garden church attender – and there are thousands of remarkable ordinary saints – and those who are more famous, like John the Evangelist and Stephen the martyr.
Having invented All Hallows ourselves, Christians have lost ground to the secularists when it comes to contemporary celebrations of Hallowe’en. These lie somewhere in between much orange plastic, false white cobwebs and E number overload at one end, and full on cinematic horror at the other: “As our real world becomes ever more terrifying, filmmakers have stepped up their game to use horror as a way to analyse the nightmare of our off-screen lives”, Esquire magazine reminds us.
Thus we use the encroaching darkness of the days to indulge our fascination with unthinkable things…
As to Christians and contemporary practices of Hallowe’en, in my experience Christian parents in villages end up reasonably happy for their children to embrace the harmless fun that is parentally supervised trick or treating with optional home made ghost costumes – after all there are only about 6 streets and most people know each other.
Meanwhile Christians in large evangelical churches will be throwing a light party, or, even better, a Superhero party. Which is obviously loads of fun, but I’m not sure it exactly helps anyone to explore the darker side of our humanity, which will inevitably catch us up if we’re unaware. But perhaps that can wait till childhood has been left behind.
When we had a churchyard at the end of our garden, I used to imagine conducting an evening churchyard Hallowe’en tour, complete with tea lights and hymns. There is something in us that is both fascinated and repelled by the idea of the realm of the dead, and I think there would have been takers – a kind of ‘Take Back Control’ of Hallowe’en. But I never quite pulled it off.
Nationally the UK is paused between the rising and falling of two political visions, balanced like weights on a scale: Remain or Leave; collaborate or Take Back Control. We were due to leave the EU today. As we wade further into the drawn out future of Brexit, what might die, what might be reborn?
Personally speaking, being in between can provide valuable space in which to discover something new about yourself. In between jobs, in between life stages, in between letting something or someone go and embracing something or someone… The in between is a spiritual opportunity, a chance to grow, if we don’t lose our nerve.
The in between is a liminal place, a place where we are (if we can only notice it) lovingly held. Between summer and winter; between the past and the future; between the devil and the deep blue Conservative sea.
We hold our collective breath and wait.
Meanwhile, Happy In-Between-All-Hallows-Eve.