Yesterday, I got on Wikipedia and was reading the kids about the origins of Halloween, and why it’s a holiday.
I found out some interesting stuff.
Halloween or Hallowe’en a contraction of “All Hallows’ Evening”, also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Eve,or All Saints’ Eve, is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It initiates the triduum of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers. Within Allhallowtide, the traditional focus of All Hallows’ Eve revolves around the theme of using “humor and ridicule to confront the power of death.”
So, really, the Christianized version of Halloween really amounts to a Day of the Dead kind of thing. Honoring and remembering the dead, all that jazz. But what really got me was the thing about using humor and ridicule to confront the power of death. As Christians, we know that Jesus’s resurrection has taken away the sting of death. So why not take the mickey out of death once in a while? Why be afraid of Halloween?
Of course, there are the Celtic origins:
Historian Nicholas Rogers, exploring the origins of Halloween, notes that while “some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain”, which comes from the Old Irish for “summer’s end”
Samhain is what usually gets Christians’ panties in a twist, and here’s why:
Samhain/Calan Gaeaf marked the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter or the ‘darker half’ of the year. Like Beltane/Calan Mai, it was seen as a liminal time, when the spirits or fairies (the Aos Sí) could more easily come into our world and were particularly active.
Most scholars see the Aos Sí as “degraded versions of ancient gods […] whose power remained active in the people’s minds even after they had been officially replaced by later religious beliefs”.
The Aos Sí were both respected and feared, with individuals often invoking the protection of God when approaching their dwellings. At Samhain, it was believed that the Aos Sí needed to be propitiated to ensure that the people and their livestock survived the winter. Offerings of food and drink, or portions of the crops, were left for the Aos Sí.
So it was believed to be a time of year to placate the malevolent spirits and mitigate a harsh winter.
What I find amusing are the myriad “harvest festivals” that churches put on to offer as alternatives to that eeeeevil trick or treating. These festivals are closer to the original Celtic harvest festivals and Samhain than trick or treating is!
So don’t be afraid of Halloween. Jesus has broken its power. Just be aware that by going to a harvest festival, you might actually be closer to the pagan customs than you think.