Saturday, October 27, 2007

Halloween--Did you know?

Having grown up in a Catholic home, I always associated Halloween with All Saints' Day. It turns out that I was only partially correct.

The actual origins of Halloween go back to a time several hundred years before the Catholic Church had an All Saints' Day. It wasn't until the mid 700's that Pope Gregory III moved the feast day to November 1.

2000 years ago, the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in) was held. They celebrated their New Year on November 1. It was the end of the harvest, the days had grown short and it was time to begin anew. They believed that as one year ended and another began the world of the dead and the world of the living came close together. Sawhain was October 31. They believed that ghosts would return to the earth and blamed these nocturnal visitors for damages to their fields, homes and anything else that was worthy of blaming an unseen visitor for. The Druid priests used this time to consult the dead to make predictions for the coming year. They would build a huge fire. Animals were sacrificed to gain the attention of the spirit world. The priests would wear costumes of animal skins and tell fortunes. As the night ended, fire from the sacred bonfire was used to light the fires in the homes. This would bring good fortune to the home throughout the cold, dark winter.

Some believe that the Church moved the All Saints' Day date to November to place a similar feast day near the popular pagan holiday. The eve of All Saints' Day, or the Eve of All Hallows, or All Hallows' Eve, later became known simply as Halloween.

There is evidence that the dates may have at one time been spring dates, but it is generally held that the above festivals and feast days are the beginnings of our modern day Halloween.

So should churches and Christians participate in this holiday with pagan roots and ghoulish practices? I guess that's a matter for another post.



Bilbo said...

"Should churches and Christians participate in this holiday with pagan roots and ghoulish practices?" I suppose the answer depends on one's interpretation and adherence to their religious beliefs, but in my opinion, this is overanalysis of a fairly simple idea: whatever Halloween may have been or have represented hundreds of years ago, today it's one small part of a massive plot by the nation's candy-makers, dentists, costume-makers, and greeting card-printers to maximize profits at the expense of hapless parents and their impressionable offspring. There are enough things out there working to take away the simple joys of childhood without adding an over-analysis of Halloween to the list (witness the furor in some circles over the Harry Potter stories). But that's just me.

Mike said...

Me too!

Serina Hope said...

Very interesting facts.
I am with Bilbo on this though. People should just let the kids have a good time.