CANTON — In the hoopla that surrounds Halloween, a Christian observance that goes back centuries has been obscured.
But a local Anglican congregation is hoping to put a renewed focus on Allhallows Eve with a service at 6 p.m. Oct. 31 at St. John’s Anglican Church.
The candlelit service will be followed by a trunk-or-treat for children in the parking lot.
Rooted in the early church, Allhallows Eve originally was a time of prayer and fasting in preparation for All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1.
Nov. 2 is All Souls’ Day, a Catholic observance in which alms and prayers are offered on behalf of the souls of those who have died in the faith.
It evolved from the pagans’ observance of honoring their dead, which came to be known as Halloween, said the Rev. Sean Ewing, St. John’s associate rector.
“It’s a way for the church to honor its saints and also to honor our loved ones,” he said. “The lighting of the fire symbolizes the fervor of the faith, and as a shining in the darkness as the days get shorter.”
St. John’s is a new plant led by the Rev. Bryan C. Hollon, a professor of theology at Malone University and director of Malone’s Center for Faith and Theology.
Hollon said many Christians don’t realize that Allhallows Eve is part of the church’s liturgical calendar.
“Many churches have taken their lead from culture at large and retained only the most secular dimensions of the church’s ancient calendar,” he said. “For example, most churches celebrate Christmas and Easter because these are fun secular holidays for the whole culture. Many Christians have no idea that Christmas and Easter are actually seasons rather than individual days.
“The only reason Christmas Day and Easter exist as holidays is because they have traditionally been part of a much more complete liturgical calendar made up of seven seasons.”
Instead of openly condemning the pagans for honoring their dead, Ewing noted that the church wisely conscripted some of their traditions. This includes the yule log at Christmas and the use of rabbits and eggs as symbols of life at Easter.
“They in a sense ‘baptized’ what they were doing,” Ewing said.
Hollon said modern-day Christians are no different than others in not knowing their history.
“Allhallows Eve is a wonderful reminder that the church extends not only over the whole earth but also through time,” he said. “It is important that Christians remember that we are only a small part of God’s work in the world stretching throughout time.
“We receive the faith from Christians who came before us, and it is our responsibility to share that faith today and pass it along to the next generation. Allhallows Eve helps us understand our part more clearly.”