Denying the Hallowed in Halloween
I received a flyer from my local church last week advertising their "Halleluia (sic) Party!"
Usually, these things go straight to the recycling bin, but then I noticed that this event is scheduled for 31 October. And I realized,
"The Christians are trying to steal Halloween!"
"Because they've already tried to appropriate it once, about 1500 years ago."
The name, Halloween, is an abbreviation of All Hallows Eve, which is the night before All Saints Day (in Middle English, Alholowmesse, ) a feast added to the Christian calendar by an early pope.
Now, at least some Christian Churches find Halloween offensive and are trying to replace it with Hallelujah Parties.
Because, in their view, Halloween is associated with the worship of Satan.
Admittedly Satanists have adopted Halloween, but this is a comparatively recent event. An extremely small proportion of all those who celebrate have any satanic intentions. And none of Halloween's traditions have any roots in Satanism, or worship of Satan.
Halloween combines the traditions from the autumn festivals of number of different cultures. Its documented origins are at least 2,500 years old and probably stretch back at least another millennium in unrecorded history.
The ancient Celts celebrated Samhain at the end of October, a feast of thanksgiving to placate their gods at the first sign of winter. They also believed this day was one in which those who died in the past year would walk the earth looking for a body to possess. Thus the association of Halloween with ghosts is indeed of long standing.
They followed Samhain with the Feast of Taman on 1 November, which for them was a New Year's celebration.
After the Romans conquest, the Romans adopted these two feasts, and combined them with their own Feralia - which honoured the dead, and Feast of Pomona - a thanksgiving for the Goddess of Fruits and Trees. So the association with the dead continued, and an association with apples added.
From its earliest days, the Catholic Church made a practice of adopting pagan festivals for its own ends. Given the association of this festival with the dead, Pope Boniface IV designated 1 November as All Saints Day in the sixth century. About 500 years later, 2 November was named All Souls Day, for those dead who had not been sainted.
So Halloween has a Christian connection and Christian based name which is about 1500 years old. These were grafted onto traditional celebrations for the dead, the new year, and feast of thanksgiving.
Even trick-and-treating has a Christian connection. During All Souls Day festivities, poor people would beg for food, and they would be given "soul cakes" in return for a promise to pray for the dead. This practice was encouraged by the Church - in part to replace the pagan tradition of leaving food out for the spirits.
Regardless of the spiritual connection, people just like an excuse for a good time. The religious trappings have dropped away, and most of us enjoy Halloween as a thoroughly secular event. Not Christian. And quite definitely not Satanic.
But by identifying Halloween as Satanic, today's Christian churches are doing themselves a disservice. They are denying Christian history. And they are suggesting that worshipers of Satan have more fun, making it more attractive to their younger followers. Oh well, I suppose we can hope that after experimenting with Satanism, some of these young folks will realize that either version of a deity is questionable and find their way into a healthy agnosticism.
Enjoy Halloween. I won't be giving out "soul cakes," but there will be lots of candy.