EDITOR’s NOTE: This column is a revised version of Ron McClung’s Positive Perspective from a previous column on Halloween.

In pre-Christian Ireland and Scotland, the Druids celebrated the New Year on November 1. Consequently, October 31 was a kind of New Year’s Eve. They simultaneously celebrated harvest, lighting bonfires to keep away ghosts or, as some believed, to guide spirits of the dead back to their homes. People began going to homes and asking for donations of food for the harvest celebration.

Later, when belief in ghosts and goblins declined, children dressed in ghostly costumes made the rounds, begging for treats. If no treats were forthcoming, they “helped” the ghosts to trick the people by overturning garbage cans and performing other deeds of mischief.

More sinister forces were also at work. In central Europe, those who practiced witchcraft observed October 31 as a Black Sabbath. The idea of witches on broomsticks, accompanied by black cats, came into the mix on this date.

The Roman Catholic Church, which had appointed certain days to honor special people who had been declared “saints,” set aside November 1 as All Saints’ Day. The night before was known as Hallow Eve or Hallow E’en.

Protestants will remember that Martin Luther, a young professor of theology, approached the church in Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31, 1517, with a parchment in one hand and a hammer in the other. He nailed to the door of the church his statements of belief, challenging the church to return to its biblical roots and to recognize salvation is through faith in Christ alone.

All these streams of thought, both pagan and religious, run together in a mixture of customs that surround Halloween. St. Paul challenged us: “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17 NIV). So, while rejecting the dark, sinister elements of the season, I celebrate the message of forgiveness through faith in Christ.

And a little candy — both for kids and adults — isn’t bad either.

— The Rev. Ron McClung, a former pastor of Owosso Wesleyan Church and former assistant general secretary for the denomination, is retired and resides in Owosso.

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