There are always questions this time of year as to whether Christians should celebrate Halloween. In my mind, the day only takes on evil connotations if we allow it to. I can say, with no embarrassment, that the Youth of our church always throw a Halloween Party for the children. We will have a special theme...i.e. a magician, a bounce house, an old fashioned carnival, a hay ride...along with food, fellowship and Trunk or Treat. The children are allowed a night of fun within the confines of our community of faith.
But, if we look at the history of the day, it isn't as evil as one might think. In the 8th century a chapel dedicated to the
memory of all the holy martyrs in Rome was built. This feast, which
happened to coincide with other pagan festivals such as the Gaelic samhain
(pronounced “souwain”) which celebrated the end of the harvest and the
beginning of winter, became a Catholic celebration (remember! At that time all Christians were Catholic!). The evening before a
holy day is typically referred to as the “eve” of that day and in church
liturgy, solemnities or major feasts are considered to begin at sundown
on the night before. The evening of October 31 would therefore be
All Saints Evening or All Hallows Eve. Over the years this has been shortened to Hallow e’en or Halloween. So, the church took the day celebrating all
the saints and martyrs and placed it near a pagan holiday. Since the liturgy extended the
celebration to the night before it was not surprising that certain elements of that pagan day were bound to crossover to the religious day. After all, the common folk had few things to celebrate, why would the church want to take away one of their festivals when we could just change it instead?
Our modern practice of sending the little ones begging for candy has a
connection to the celebration of the saints. There was, in the Middle
Ages, a custom of “souling” in which the poor would go through
neighborhoods begging for food in exchange for prayers for the dead.
This souling took place on November 1, and the prayers would be offered on
the following day, All Souls Day,
which is a day of remembrance and prayers for all the faithful
For other Halloween traditions, such as carving pumpkins into
jack-o’-lanterns, the historical path is easier to trace. Once again,
those crafty Celts found a way to turn turnips into lanterns by
hollowing them out, In this country, the pumpkin was more plentiful than
the turnip and so it proved a worthy replacement.
Any day can be good or bad, depending on how we choose to live it. Let's have fun today!