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Page last updated at 12:17 GMT, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 13:17 UK
'Devil is not out on Halloween'
By John Florance
Presenter, BBC Leicester

A pumpkin carved for Halloween to form a Jack-o-lantern
"I can't really believe that this is engaging with the occult or the Devil"

The Bishop of Leicester, the Right Reverend Tim Stevens believes a church magazine article strongly criticising people who celebrate Halloween is "overstating the issue".

The Belvoir Angel, delivered to homes in the Vale of Belvoir, wrote those marking Halloween or going trick-or-treating were "siding with the Devil".

The Bishop said that his children had enjoyed Halloween when they were young.

"I can't really believe that this is engaging with the occult or the Devil".

I spoke to Barry Hill, Mission Enabler working across the Diocese and he agreed with the Bishop.

He explained that Halloween is the day before All Saints Day or All Hallows as it used to be known.

Barry told me that All Saints Day is an ancient church feast.

Child dressed up as the Devil on Halloween
Many Christians view Halloween as a harmless tradition

It arose out of the Christian tradition of celebrating the martyrdom of saints on the anniversary of their martyrdom.

When martyrdoms increased during the persecutions of the late Roman Empire, local dioceses instituted a common feast day in order to ensure that all martyrs, known and unknown, were properly honoured.

The day before All Saints Day is a source of concern for some Christians, as the writer of the original magazine article made clear.

This is because the so called "pagan origins" of the day have been interpreted to mean that Halloween is associated with devil worship.

But the vigil was celebrated from the beginning - long before "pagan" elements were incorporated into popular celebrations of the feast.

I rather suspect many Christians would like to see a return to the proper (i.e. church) observation of these days, even though they view the popular manifestations of Halloween as pretty harmless.

And I can't help thinking that the annual scare stories about All Hallows Eve bring the church into some disrepute!

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