A RETIRED Church of Scotland Minister, the Rev Martyn Sanders, now living in Ledbury, has offered his insights concerning the festival of Halloween..

He said: "This weekend it’s Halloween, and COVID-19 will no doubt curtail much of the usual shenanigans. Will you have a pumpkin face on your doorstep? Will you be trick or treated? Will your children be dressing up as ghouls or ghosts? Why? What is Halloween really about?

"Halloween has its roots in an old Celtic festival known as Samhain, meaning 'summer's end'. It was a celebration to mark the end of the harvest season (yes, in the north of Scotland the harvest may not all be gathered in until the end of October) when the ancient pagan Celts prepared for winter ensuring they had a good stock of supplies. They regarded it as a time when the old year was coming to an end but when the new year had not yet begun.

"Having lived in north-east Scotland I can see how making the most of the light in the winter months is essential. It’s at this time of year we begin to see the northern lights, those seemly odd colours in the northern sky Back in pagan times people believed that the strange colours and shapes they saw in the sky were a 'door' to the ‘otherworld’, slightly ajar, allowing the souls of the dead and other strange beings to come into our world. They would take steps to ward-off any harmful spirits and it is these customs that are understood to have influenced today's Halloween traditions."

Mr Sanders added: "The word Halloween is a contraction of the phrase, 'all hallows eve' or the evening before all hallows day. That’s the day we now call All Saint’s Day, November 1. It’s a special day when Christians remember all who have been ‘hallowed’, made holy.

"There are sinister aspects of Halloween that focus on death, darkness, fear. If you do get trick or treated or see a pumpkin at someone’s door, think about this wee reflection I came across some years ago A woman was asked by a friend, 'What is it like to be a Christian?' Her friend replied, 'It’s like being a pumpkin! God picks you from the ground and washes all the dirt off of you. Then he cuts off the top and scoops out the yucky stuff. He removes the seeds of doubt, hate, and greed. Then He carves you a new smiling face and puts his light inside you, to shine for all the world to see'."