Archived Story

What would Jesus do on Halloween?

Published 10:29am Wednesday, October 31, 2012

It’s finally beginning to feel more like Fall. Personally, I am ready for it. I have had several people this week ask me if I was going to write a column about the history of Halloween. One person asked me if I could find out whether or not it was evil. Well, ummm, well.

So let’s look at Halloween. Its ancient origin actually begins with the Celtics, who lived about 2000 years ago in what is now Ireland. They celebrated the end of the Celtic Summer with a holiday called “Samhain” (sow-hen) on Oct. 31.

They also believed on this night that the spirit world could intermix with the living world allowing those who had died the year before to “possess” a living body. Naturally, since the living did not want to be possessed, they did things to scare away the spirits; such as, costumes, making noise, big bonfires and creating general mischief.

When the Romans conquered the Celtics they adopted the ways of the Celtics and included them into their own holidays. When the influence of Christianity reached the Celtics, the Pope, probably in hopes of replacing the Pagan festivals of the time, designated November 1st “All Saints’ Day.” It was a time to honor Saints and martyrs. In the Middle English language, the name of the festival was “Al-hallowmas.” There-fore, the night before was called, “Al-hallows Eve” that eventually changed to Halloween.

Immigrants from Ireland and England introduced some of the their customs, one of which was Halloween. In the 1800s and early 1900s Halloween was more of a community event. It was a time that adults even dressed in costumes and there were often community get togethers. However, vandalism – by adults – became a problem, so communities began to change the focus of Halloween to children. Trick-or-treating was revived as a way for the community to participate in the celebration.

The origins of trick-or-treating start with the “All Saints’ Days.” During the parades honoring saints, poor citizens would beg for pastries called “soul cakes.” The poor would promise to pray for dead family members of the people who gave them cakes. (A little after the fact if you ask me.)

So how did things like witches and warlocks get involved it Halloween. I am not honestly sure. That’s a lot of help, huh? I did do some research and what I discovered was that in Europe it was once believed that witches and warlocks met twice a year to party with the devil. One time was the night before May Day and, yep, you guessed it the other was Halloween. One thing I did find interesting was that according to legend, if you wanted to meet a witch you had to wear your clothes inside out and walk backward on Halloween night. My question is: “You would want to meet a witch – why?” To me, this seems more like advice on how NOT to meet a witch!

So yes Halloween does have pagan roots in a way, but so do Christmas trees and the Easter Bunny. But the question put to me was, “Do I think Halloween is evil?” No, not really. I think it can be made that way.

I am sure some misguided people worship the devil on Halloween, but we do not. I am just as sure those same people worship the devil at other times as well, not just Halloween. Here’s the way I have always put it to my children when they are picking out costumes for Halloween,”How would you feel if Jesus were to come back tonight? Could you look at Jesus and explain to him why you are dressed like (whatever)? Would you be ashamed to face him?”

Before you ask, “Yes, I have often heard the cry of, ‘But Mom, so-and-so gets wear a witches, devil, or other ‘evil’ type costume. Why cannot I?’ My response, “If so and so were my child he/she would not be wearing it. It is not my business to worry about how someone else raises his or her child. I have enough of my own.”

 

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