Dates for assembly

24th October 2003 at 01:00
October 31-November 2: Hallowtide.

The pagan festival of Hallowe'en is now better known than the Christian feast it precedes.

Outline script for assembly leader

"Trick or treating", when children knock on front doors hoping to be given sweets or cash, is an American custom - and not without danger. There have been cases of trick or treaters being given drugs instead of sweets or of being persuaded to enter strangers' houses.

Even so, it's now part of Hallowe'en , the last night of October. More traditional activities include fancy dress parties, bobbing for apples (How many apples floating in a tin bath of water can you retrieve, using only your mouth?) and making pumpkin lanterns. These were used in olden times to scare away witches and ghosts whom people believed were out to cause trouble the night before All Saints' Day.

All Saints' Day is the day on which Christians (especially Catholics and some Anglicans) remember good and holy people (or "saints") who have died but who have no saint's day of their own. Until the Reformation, it was a holiday in this country and still is in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

All Saints' Day is followed by All Souls' Day, also known as "the day of the dead". This is a time for remembering all those who have died, good or bad. In some countries families visit cemeteries to put flowers on the graves of their loved ones. Far from being morbid, it is a chance to remember shared happy times.

People used to believe the dead came back to earth on this day to taste ordinary food again so there was a custom of placing a glass of wine and cakes (known as soul cakes) on family graves.

Follow-up To make a Hallowe'en lantern, hollow out a pumpkin or turnip, cut slits to represent eyes, nose and mouth and place a lighted nightlight or candle inside.

In pagan times, Hallowe'en was called Samhain. Searching this on the web can produce links to explicit sexual sites. The Evangelical Christian case against even the playful observance of Hallowe'en in schools can be found in links from www.familyworship.org.ukhalloween.htm To mark All Saints' Day, pupils might compile their own illustrated lists of 10 "great and good" people to remember at this time. To mark All Souls' Day, they might make a list of great grandparents, family friends and others to honour similarly.

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