Ever wonder where Halloween comes from?
Have you ever asked yourself if we as Christians should be celebrating or participate in this popular yearly event?
The story of Halloween
Some of you may wonder why people dress up as witches and goblins and have scary Halloween parties. It has come about because a pagan celebration and a Christian celebration got mixed up together. The ancient Celts celebrated the end of the dark seasons of autumn and winter with the festival of Samhein, which involved the use of costumes and treats and a lot of chaos. The Druids thought you could visit dead people on that day.
Christians used to call this day All Hallows Eve. It was the night before All Saints Day when they remembered people who loved God, and had now died. They talked about how they could follow their good example by loving and serving God too.
Saints are not necessarily famous people. They are people who belong to God because they have trusted Jesus to be their Saviour and have tried to live to please Him. God ‘sees’ every Christian as a saint. This could be anyone - your grandfather, your neighbour or anyone who loves and serves God.
Some historians trace the origin of Halloween back to the merging of two celebrations: a Christian one called “All Hallow’s Eve” with a harvest festival called Samhain (pronounced sah-win).
On 13 May back in 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to all martyrs and named it as a day to remember them. Later down the line another pope changed the date to 1 November when he dedicated a chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica to “all saints”. All Saints Day was also known as All Hallow’s Day (hallow means ‘holy’). The celebrations began the evening before on All Hallow’s Eve, which became Hallowe’en.
The Celtic people of Europe had their own festival at that time of year called Samhain. It celebrated the end of the autumn harvest and the beginning of the dark season of winter, and involved going door to door in disguises collecting food for feasts and using lanterns carved out of gourds and turnips (jack-o-lanterns).
As Christianity spread throughout the world, pagan holidays were often forgotten or merged with Christian holidays and as a result, Samhain was absorbed into Halloween. As secularism took root, trick or treating eclipsed the practice of honouring and celebrating the lives of Christian martyrs.
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