It’s big business this thing called Halloween. Of course, everybody knows about Halloween and now standing at £300M and growing, it is the second largest retail bonanza after Christmas.
Some may well remember how it can be spelt Hallowe’en – as it is a shortened version of All Hallows’ Eve. So, what is “All Hallows?” It’s an old turn of phrase for All Saints Day, which usually falls on 1st November. It was one of various a holy days.
In the early days of the church, Christians had to meet secretly and developed traditions of honouring the anniversary of local martyrs’ deaths: those who died for being followers of Jesus Christ. However, during the fierce days of persecution under Roman Emperors such as Nero and Diocletian, the number of martyrs became so great that a separate day could not be assigned to each.
Hence we find that one day was established to remember them all. On the first recorded All Saints’ Day, St. Basil of Caesarea in 397 A.D. invited all the Christians of the province of Pontus for a feast to honour the fallen. Things improved dramatically for Christians after the Roman Emperor Constantine became a believer and a time of relative peace was enjoyed.
In more recent times the sufferings of Christians around the world has increased to an alarming level. The suffering church action week runs from 29th October to 5th November. It is a sombre reminder of the daily reality in many countries and the need to stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ who bear witness and often do so at the cost of either their liberty or their lives.
Today the word ‘saint’ tends to be mistakenly thought of as one of the characters who appear in stain glass windows, or whose lives are written up as best selling biographies, or even the nickname for Southampton F.C. But the word ‘saint’ refers to ordinary followers of Jesus as used by Paul in a letter to a Greek church: ‘Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus – grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Ephesians 1v1-2). The ordinary follower of Jesus is counted as a saint (lit: holy) in his sight, because only he can put us right with God. What a privilege. What a responsibility!