Have you ever wondered about the origin and history of Halloween? Have you ever wondered if it was pagan or Christian? The annual event is complicated and has been shaped by various cultures through the ages, so let’s take a look at this holiday and learn more.
The English name Halloween dates back to the medieval Catholic Church, which long predates the Reformation (which is also celebrated on October 31). The word sanctify is derived from an Old English word meaning holy. It can also mean holy. The feast we know as All Saints Day was called All Saints Day and the day before, when an evening mass was held, was All Saints Day. It gradually became Halloween.
The ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain, which took place on November 1 but began the evening before, is considered the earliest known source of some of our Halloween traditions. Samhain (end of summer) in Celtic religion is one of the biggest and scariest holidays of the year. On November 1, the Celts believed that the world of the gods became visible to mankind and that the gods played many devilish tricks on their living human worshippers. Considered a dangerous time filled with fear, people believed that sacrifices of all kinds were necessary to neutralize the activities of the deities.
Samhain was an important precursor to Halloween. People believed that the dead were allowed to return to this side of the grave and interact with the living. One of the fears was that if the living did not honor the dead, spirits (ghosts) would haunt and curse the living. Some also thought that the bodies – skeletons or partially decomposed bodies – of the dead would seem to harm or at least scare people, and that’s why Halloween is popular for many of its haunted stories. This concept is shared by other cultures.
Connecting the Church to Halloween activities and superstitions on October 31 is more complex. Pope Boniface IV began All Saints’ Day in 609 when he dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to “Blessed Mary, ever virgin, mother of all saints” on May 13. (Another source says the pope dedicated it to “Saint Mary and all the martyrs.”) Pope Gregory IV added All Saints Day to the Church calendar, extending the Rome celebration to churches around the world, and Pope Gregory VII eventually mandated All Saints Day on November 1. With All Saints Day on November 1, all New Year’s Eve was October 31. This may have been an effort to offset the pagan event with a religious celebration. But that didn’t make up for anything; he simply added a deeply pagan tradition to the Church calendar.
The early pagan festivals of Samhain involved many polytheistic Celtic rituals and ceremonies. Gradually the Church became desensitized to the negative spiritual connotations of the celebration and absorbed pagan traditions into Christianity.
The mystical rituals of ancient times evolved into lighter amusements and games. For example, the somewhat cumbersome concept of interacting with the dead was replaced by the lighter idea of divination – itself a pagan practice. Bobbing for apples also became popular as a fortune-telling game on All Saints’ Eve: apples would be selected to represent all of a woman’s suitors, and the apple she eventually bit into would supposedly represent her future husband.
The concept of collecting candy became common in the United States in the early 1900s, during which families would offer treats to children in hopes that they would be safe from any holiday pranks.
When it comes to costumes, young Scottish and Irish pranksters came up with the idea of dressing up in spooky attire to scare off unsuspecting neighbors. And, thanks to these people, the costumes have become both spooky, spooky and creative.
Many people, including Christians, see nothing wrong with the annual celebration, and others – mostly Christians – still recognize the pagan origins. And still others still celebrate the day in the manner of the original Celtic Samhain.
During the early to mid-1900s in the United States, the celebration was fun, innocent, and a great social event. But gradually the spirit of the event began to rear its ugly head. I don’t know about other states, when I lived in Southern California relatives found razor blades in some apples, some candies were contaminated with poison or illegal drugs, and more.
So if you’re celebrating the popular Halloween holiday, be careful. Take care of your children. And in everything you do, honor Jesus Christ.
— S. Eugene Linzey is an author, mentor and speaker. Send your comments and questions to [email protected] Visit his website at www.genelinzey.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.