The History of Halloween
It’s that time again…Fall and Halloween.
Halloween brings back sad memories for me. I was riding a bus from North Carolina to Alabama on Halloween night. My Grandmother had died and I was returning from her funeral. I remember watching the little Trick or Treaters walking around their communities with their little baskets in hopes of some nice candies. It was not the custom itself that bothered me for we did fun things…like bobbing for apples when I was a child, but it was the association with a difficult memory. Since that time, I get ready for the little ones, but have not enjoyed it as others may. Even adults dress up and go to the “spook” houses. More recently churches and community groups host parties for the young to keep them out of harm’s way. This is a very good idea.
If we should go to the streets and ask those parents walking their children, “What is the history behind our Halloween tradition?” Someone in the group may have a vague idea that it started with something religious…but not certain where or when. Therefore, this blog is to share with you the true history of Halloween from a Christian’s prospective. (Taken from All About) If you have children or grandchildren, you may want to pass this blog along to the families before Halloween. It may be a good history lesson before they put on those Halloween costumes and go out for a night of fun.
“When we consider the history of Halloween (a Christian perspective), it may seem as if the modern holiday has gotten out of hand. After all, doesn’t Halloween glorify evil? Is it right to send our children out as devils and vampires? Should we emphasize the saints, whose nearly forgotten feast day is the reason for Halloween? Hallow is the same word for “holy” that we find in the Lord’s Prayer, ande’en is a contraction of “evening.” The word Halloween itself is a shortened form of “All Hallows Eve,” the day before All Saints Day. This holiday, properly understood and celebrated with all of its fun trappings, can be a way for us to deepen our understanding of faith.
Halloween has its roots in the ancient Celtic tribes of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Brittany. On October 31, the tribes would celebrate the festival of Samhain. During this festival, Celts believed the souls of the dead — including ghosts, goblins, and witches — returned to mingle with the living. In order to scare away the evil spirits, people would wear masks and light bonfires.
When the Romans conquered the Celts, they added their own touches to the Samhain festival, such as making centerpieces out of apples and nuts for Pomona, the Roman goddess of the orchards. The Romans also bobbed for apples and drank cider — traditions which may sound familiar to you. But where does the Christian aspect of the holiday come into play? In 835, Pope Gregory IV moved the celebration for all the martyrs (later all saints) from May 13 to November 1. The night before became known as All Hallow’s Even or “holy evening.” Eventually the name was shortened to the current Halloween. On November 2, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates All Souls Day.
The purpose of these feasts is to remember those who have died, whether they are officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as saints or not. It is a celebration of the “communion of saints,” which reminds us that the church is not bound by space or time.
History of Halloween (Christian Perspective) – The Customs
Many of the customs we now associate with Halloween are also derived from ancient celebrations.
For example, the current custom of going door-to-door to collect treats actually started in Ireland hundreds of years ago. Groups of farmers would go door-to-door collecting food and materials for a village feast and bonfire. Those who gave were promised prosperity; those who did not received threats of bad luck. When an influx of Irish Catholic immigrants came to the United States in the 1800s, the custom of trick-or-treating came with them.
Does your family carve a pumpkin to place on your porch for Halloween? If so, then you can once again thank the Irish for the tradition. Actually, the custom began with a turnip. People would hollow out the turnips and place lighted candles inside to scare off the evil spirits. When the Irish came to America, they discovered the pumpkin as a larger substitute for the turnip. And so, we now carve pumpkins instead of turnips for Halloween.”
Some parents choose not to observe this particular day because of the associations of its history. Others believe that the evolution from the past is simply a time to have fun, dress up, and do things together on this day. Churches are often having parties for the community and church children because they believe it is a safer place to observe Halloween. Whatever your family thinks…. Happy Halloween…. or All Hallows Eve on this night, October 31st, from Boyer Writes. Have fun and be safe!
Video on the History of Halloween (from History Channel)