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)
It’s that time of year again…Halloween. Children love it for they march from house to house gathering all the candies that their parents won’t let them eat throughout the year. Teachers hate it for students sneak in the candies to class the next day. Adults who throw Halloween parties…dress up…and act like kids..or wild adults who get into the “spirit” may go all out for the occasion. For some it is a time for mischief and tricks…that may not be so funny. Parents in our neighborhood usually walk with their children…or give them a hay ride on a flat-bed truck.
What is the History of this holiday? We’re here to share it with you. Here goes…with a few interesting pictures at the end that may get make those chills run up your spine.
According to the writer Christian Hummel:
- More complete HISTORY of Halloween or ALL HALLOW’S EVE:
All Hallow’s Eve, Hallow E’en, Halloween, Day of the Dead, Samhain. By whatever name it has been called, this special night preceding All Hallows day (November 1st) has been considered for centuries as one of the most magical nights of the year…As ubiquitous as Halloween celebrations are throughout the world, few of us know that the true origin of Halloween is a ceremony of honoring our ancestors and the day of the dead.
In ancient times, this day was a special and honored day of the year. The Celts believed that the normal laws of space and time were held in abeyance during this time, allowing a special window where the spirit world could intermingle with the living. It was a night when the dead could cross the veils and return to the land of the living to celebrate with their family, or clan. As such, the great burial mounds of Ireland were lit up with torches lining the walls, so the spirits of the dead could find their way.
- The Jack-o-lantern
Out of this ancient tradition comes one of our most famous icons of the holiday: the Jack-o-lantern. Originating from Irish folklore, the Jack-o-lantern was used as a light for the lost soul of Jack, a notorious trickster, stuck between worlds. Jack is said to have tricked the devil into a trunk of a tree and by carving an image of a cross in the tree’s trunk, he trapped the devil there. His pranks denied him access to Heaven, and having angered the devil also to Hell, so Jack was a lost soul, trapped between worlds. As a consolation, the devil gave him a sole ember to light his way through the darkness between worlds. Originally in Ireland turnips were carved out and candles placed inside as lanterns lit to help guide Jack’s lost spirit back home. Hence the term: Jack-o-lanterns. Later, when immigrants came to the new world, pumpkins were more readily available, and so the carved pumpkins carrying a lit candle served the same function.
- The Christian Church moves away from the pagans:
As the Christian Church began to take hold in Europe the ancient Pagan rituals were co-opted into festivals of the Church. While the Church could not support a general feast for all the dead, it created a festival for the BLESSED dead, all those hallowed so, All Hallow’s, was transformed into All Saints and All Souls day… Today, we have lost the significance of this most significant time of year which in modern times has turned into a candy fest with kids dressing up… Many cultures have ceremonies to honor their dead. In so doing, they complete a cycle of birth and death, and keep in line with a harmony and order of the universe, at time when we enter into the cycle of darkness for the upcoming year.
- Lighting candles to remember those who have died
As you light your candles (or flashlight in your pumpkin) this year, keep in mind the true potency of this time, one of magical connections to the other side of life, and a time to remember those who have passed before us. A time to send our love and gratitude to them..
- Loving to be scared
Having given the history, we may just put you in the mood for this so-called scary of all nights. Even if you do not walk through a cemetery, you may want to see some pictures that may remind you of the haunted…the forsaken…of Halloween tales as we know them.
These pictures were taken in England by photographer Andre Govia. If you want a really good view of details, click on any picture to enlarge…then arrow back for the next picture. HAPPY Halloween or ALL HALLOW’S EVE!!