Saturday, October 31, 2009
Hallows Eve? All Saints Day? Reformation Day? Or should I say Happy Fall Y’ all!?
Since we are interested in printed words on paper and story as well- and most readers of the From the Heart blog come at this process from A Christian Worldview I thought I would share with you some of the words I have gathered from various blogs and online sources pertaining to Halloween. (which we here in America celebrate October 31st)
Halloween is the one of the oldest holidays still celebrated today and one of the most popular holidays, second only to Christmas. While millions of people celebrate Halloween without knowing its origins and myths, the history and facts of Halloween make the holiday more fascinating.
The name Halloween is a shortening of All Hallow's Eve and signifies the night before All Saints' Day. For centuries on All Saints' Day the Church celebrated the lives of Christians who went before us. And rightly so: We can learn so much from those whom the author of Hebrews calls that great cloud of witnesses. The tradition of remembering the Church triumphant dates back to the time of the first Christian martyrs.
Some people view Halloween as a time for fun, putting on costumes, trick-or-treating, and having theme parties. Others view it as a time of superstitions, ghosts, goblins and evil spirits that should be avoided at all costs. As the Christian debate goes on, celebrating Halloween is a preference that is not always viewed as participating in evil. “Halloween is not Satan's birthday," says Steve Russo, co-host of Focus on the Family's "Life on the Edge -- Live!" radio program (http://www.family.org/) and author of "Halloween: What's a Christian to Do?" Halloween is often celebrated with no reference to pagan rituals or the occult.
Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic religious festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). All of the sources I checked agree with this accounting.The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. Samhain, which was the supreme night of demonic jubilation (Oct 31st). Celts believed that on the night before the newyear, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. It was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth, both benevolent and nasty ones that caused trouble and damaged crops. They began to wear costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, to blend in with the ghouls released from their deadly prisons walking amongst them (This is the origin of Halloween masquerading as devils, imps, ogres, and other demonic creatures.) and sometimes placed lights in the windows of their houses to ward off the evil ones. These lights were often placed in carved out turnips or beets. Some cut faces in them to further scare off the demons. They would have been carried around the village boundaries or left outside the home to burn through the night. Another version says Samhain was a fire festival. Sacred bonfires were lit on the tops of hills in honor of the Gods. The townspeople would take an ember from the bonfire to their home and re-light the fire in their family hearth. The ember would usually be carried in a holder - often a turnip or gourd.
By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. This is called syncretism. Syncretism is the attempt to reconcile disparate or contrary beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. This may involve attempts to merge several originally discrete traditions, especially in the theology and mythology of religion, and thus assert an underlying unity allowing for an inclusive approach to other faiths. (Syncretism also occurs commonly in literature, music, the representational arts and other expressions of culture).
By the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints' Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday, a typical practice at the time. The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls', were called Hallowmas.
Others trace "trick-or-treat" to a European custom called "souling". Beggars would go from village to village begging for "soul cakes" made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors.
Traditional Halloween symbols (witches, black cats, pumpkins, candles, masks, parties and pranks) appeared in the U.S. during the late 1800's. In 1848, millions of Irish emigrants poured into America as a result of the potato famine. When the Irish emigrated to America they could not find many turnips to carve into Jack O'Lanterns but they did find an abundance of pumpkins. Pumpkins seemed to be a suitable substitute for the turnips and pumpkins have been an essential part of Halloween celebrations ever since. The holiday of Druidism found its new home on alien shores. Proudly Celtic, they kept the traditional observances.
The conversion of Celtic peoples to Christianity did not dampen their enthusiasm for the pre-Christian year-end custom of feasts, bonfires, and masks, essentially newyear's eve costume parties. The proximity to the developing Christian feasts of All Saints and All Souls resulted in an attempt to move the celebration to the evening before All Souls, when children would go door to door receiving treats for a promise of prayer for the dead of the household. This attempt to associate the Celtic remembrance of the dead with the Christian memorial ultimately failed and the celebration remained a year-end custom (by the old Celtic calendar), though Halloween remains primarily a children's feast.
Maybe Halloween just isn't for you or maybe you don't want your children coming home with bags of candy. Let's face it. Halloween isn't for everyone. With all the hooplah you may be looking for alternatives to celebrating Halloween. Associatedcontent.com has a great article on 7 alternative harvest party ideas. http://www.associatedcontent.com/ article/2194415/halloween_alternatives_7_great_ideas.html?cat=74 Amongst their suggestions: Trunk or Treat Tailgating in the church parking lot- Weiner roasts and campfires. Throwing a Block Party, bowling or skating party, hosting a fall tea party allowing the kids to dress fancy, or scheduling a fun Hayride.
Christiansolutionsmag.com suggests we celebrate Christ who through His death and resurrection conquered death and evil and suggest we use this time to educate your children of what this means to them in particular.
Hartline author Kathi Macias and well known author and Breakpoint host Chuck Colsen both have great articles on ‘Breakpoint’ (see link below) suggesting we celebrate All Saints Day. After all we do share a rich Christian heritage with a Great Cloud of Witness’. So may I encourage you all to prayerfully consider how you celebrate this day and consider a few alternatives for a change?
Have fun and Honor Him who loves us!
From my heart to yours,
Sources I viewed for this article and recommend as interesting reading material: