On Friday, “The Ottawa Citizen” asked a number of what they call “Religion Experts” “Is there a spiritual purpose to a ghoulish celebration like Halloween?

The responses range from affirming Halloween as an event with real “spiritual significance”, to viewing it as a time of “harmless fun” and “magic and make-believe”. It is described as an even that is  linked to “spiritual darkness” associated with “destruction and death”, or an opportunity to forge a stronger sense of community connection.

According to the Consolidated Credit Counselling Service of Canada, Canadians last year spent $1.5 billion on Halloween. This year we are anticipated to spend $322 million on candy and $60 on each costume per household. 11% of Canadians will spend up to $59 to dress up their pet for Halloween.

Why does Halloween continue to exercise such power in our culture? Is it simply a marketing ploy for costume makers and candy manufacturers? Is there something more going on in Halloween than meets the eye?

What does your celebration of this curious festival say about you? What are you communicating to your children by your family practice of Halloween?

Excerpts from the “Ottawa Citizen” replies are below, with the link to the entire article at the bottom.

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JACK MCLEAN is a Bahá’í scholar, teacher, essayist and poet published in the fields of spirituality, Bahá’í theology and poetry.

As with Christmas, the “spiritual purpose” of Halloween has been largely forgotten, except by the pious who are aware of the sacred purpose of All Saints’ Day. Halloween has become, instead, a time for the celebration of the pagan soul, for disguise and for having some harmless fun. However the spiritual purpose of All Saints Eve, although it has been largely forgotten, is still there. That purpose is prayer — prayer to elevate the souls of those who have left the earthly plane.

While Bahá’ís follow the calendar of the Bahá’í Faith’s own holy days, it is a fundamental Bahá’í belief, explicitly stated, that the prayers of those who are still on earth can further the spiritual progress of those who have passed on. The two Prophet-Founders, the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’u’lláh’s eldest son and successor, all revealed special prayers for the spiritual progress of the departed. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá counselled: “Pray for them as they pray for you.”

Rev. RICK REED is senior pastor at the Metropolitan Bible Church in Ottawa.

how should Christians respond to this ghoulish celebration? For starters, we should distance ourselves from the spiritual darkness linked to the holiday. Some will choose to sit out any celebration of Halloween. Others will find ways for kids to enjoy candy and costumes without dabbling in the darkness
… At the same time, Christians should not be spooked by Halloween. When Jesus died on the cross, He not only provided forgiveness for all who believe in Him, He also defeated all demonic powers….

So if there’s a spiritual purpose for Halloween, I’d say it’s the reminder of the spiritual dark side of our world; there are spiritual powers at work around us that traffic in destruction and death. At the same time, Christians should remember that the light of Christ is greater than any spiritual darkness.

KEVIN SMITH is on the board of directors for the Centre for Inquiry, Canada’s premier venue for humanists, skeptics and freethinkers.

wherein lies the sin if one partakes in a supposedly supernatural ritual, resplendent with costumes suitable for such a “spiritual” occasion? The irony is unmistakable. Most kids understand it’s magic and make-believe. The horror is when grown-ups don’t.

Rev. GEOFFREY KERSLAKE is a priest of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa.

There is scholarly debate about how much pagan Celtic celebrations of the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter influenced Halloween. The more fanciful elements of this celebration, especially the supernatural connotations, are probably connected to ancient pagan beliefs. But today Halloween principally is celebrated as a night for children to dress up in costumes and go door to door in the neighbourhood collecting candy.

The evening of Oct. 31 has in West in the popular imagination lost much of its meaning as the vigil of the celebration of All Saints, but Nov. 1 remains a special day in the faith lives of Catholic Christians, when we remember the witness and example of the saints who confessed their faith.

Rabbi REUVEN BULKA, head of Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa, hosts Sunday Night with Rabbi Bulka on 580 CFRA.

Halloween is part of the general culture in Canada, absent any religious connection. In other words, many people have seen a value in one of the nuances of Halloween, whatever their religious persuasion may be.

What is it about Halloween that they find so attractive? Perhaps it is friends going around together. Perhaps it is the knocking on doors and saying hello to otherwise unknown neighbours, thereby fostering closer connections with them. Perhaps it is just the plain fun of the exercise — putting on costumes, many of them scary, or ghoulish as you might call it, but all in good humour.

This part of Halloween reflects some of the values we consider sacred. These are the values of sharing with others, of opening our doors to others, of being good and welcoming neighbours, of enjoying life and spreading joy.

Nothing wrong with that. And nothing wrong expanding this exercise into a more frequent expression within the community.

Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Religion+Experts+there+spiritual+purpose+ghoulish+celebration+like+Halloween/7453754/story.html#ixzz2AVpiPYGn

My reflections on Halloween can be read at: http://blogs.timescolonist.com/2012/10/25/halloween-yearning-of-the-spirit/