The Origins of Halloween

While researching Halloween, I came across a lot of different stories on how it all began. However, no matter where or when it began it always included the dead. It was to ward off the spirits of the dead who came to wreck havoc on the living and their livelihood and later in history to celebrate those who had died. Costumes were worn and fortunes were told.

Most stories began with the Celts, who lived over 2000 years ago. They celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and harvest time, while bringing the dreaded winter time with its long dark nights and low food supplies.

Samhain, the Fire Festival

The night before, October 31, they celebrated a festival call Samhain (pronounced “sow-en”). It was one of four Fire Festivals that the Celts celebrated. It lasted three days (Oct. 31-Nov. 2). It was a time when chaos ruled and evil prevailed. People did whatever they wanted, such as men dressing as women and vice versa. Limitations were based only on their imagination.

On this night the veil between the natural and spiritual world was at its thinnest. With the gateway open, the Celtic priests called Druids could predict the future a lot easier because they could ask the already departed for information. Also, it allowed the dead to cross back over to the world of the living.

To fool the spirits that wanted to cause people harm, the Celts dressed up in masks to make themselves look dead. For the spirits that just wanted to come home and be with the family, the Celts put out food for them at the dinner table.

At the end of the festivities they built bonfires to make sacrifices that honored their gods and goddesses. Then each person would light a torch from the fire to take home and light their fireplace. This was supposed to bring good luck for the rest of the year.

The Compromise

When the Romans conquered the Celts they tried to convert them to Roman Christianity, which meant abandoning their festivals. Many years passed without success. Eventually one Pope thought he could win the Celts by compromising. He didn’t think this would be hard since the Romans were already celebrating the dead and honoring Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees.

He aligned the Celts’ three-day festival with their festivals. He established October 31 as All Hallows Eve, November 1 as All Saints Day, and November 2 as All Souls Day. Together all three days are known as Hallow Mass.

Samhain became the “evening” of “All Hallows” (“hallowed” ->”holy” ->”saint”), which was eventually contracted into “Hallow-e’en” or the modern “Halloween.”

The Result of Compromising

The Pope thought that the Celts would follow Roman Christianity. Instead all he did was help millions of Christians across time celebrate one of the Celts’ holy days – a day in which they honored and contacted the dead, a day in which chaos ruled, and a day in which they sacrificed to their gods and goddesses.

So my question is: Should those who believe in the Bible celebrate this holiday or not?

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