Ah, that weekend is approaching when those who have worked all year round producing bizarre latex products and tubes of fake luminescent blood, finally get to see the fruit of their labours for 48 hours or so. Slashed throats. Bullet holes in foreheads. Blood-stained t-shirts, and wild attempts to make vampires and witches ‘sexy’.
I find Halloween a baffling thing. I used to enjoy the surreal experience of travelling on the London tube, surrounded by men and women who were clearly in that liminal space between work and party, having applied make-up before leaving the office, but still wearing their suit or carrying a briefcase. Corporate zombies. And the next morning, seeing the same people make the return journey to their place of work, with hints of dried blood or white face paint still encrusted in their hair.
This year we’re trying to navigate it with a five-year old, whose school ran an end of term Halloween fancy-dress day. That’s a whole ‘nother thing. It was odd dropping her off at school and wandering through a playground full of blood-covered, weapon-wielding, broom-straddled, demon-horned children. When we tried to discuss it with her, she declared, “I don’t like all the scary witches and ghosts. But I do like sweets. And it seems that the scarier you dress, the more sweets you get.” She’s not wrong.
One of the things I find confusing about Halloween is that I’m not sure if people know why they celebrate it? If you went up to the average zombie on the street and asked them the origins of the festival, or what it’s commemorating, I don’t know how many would be able to answer.
Why do people enjoy dressing up like horrifying undead beings? What is it that people find so attractive about making yourself look like you have just undergone a grotesque murder, but survived long enough to celebrate your ordeal with a few pints? Is it an obsession with defeating death? Is the popularity of zombies an expression of dissatisfaction with the intangible idea of floating souls escaping a physical world, and a wish for something more concrete? Dead bodies still able to walk, talk, touch. Is it simply macabre, or is it a deep heart cry – a longing for resurrection?
This Halloween, whether you’re celebrating it or not, why not spend a moment reflecting on this puzzling story from Matthew 27:
‘And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.’Matthew 27:51-53 ESV
I like this curious little passage. I’d be fascinated to see something like this take place… though if it happened this weekend, I’m not sure anyone would notice! But as you read it ask yourself:
- What is it people are really longing for at Halloween? Whether they know it or not? Why has it found such a place in our culture?
- What are we meant to make of this strange story? What actually happened, what does it mean, and why did Matthew include it in his resurrection account? (And if you want a hand, you may want to check out this post).
- How can the gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus connect with the longings of the wannabe-zombies strolling our streets this weekend?’
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