Halloween and Christianity


Michael Williams
Religion
10/28/96


It is often said that Halloween is not the "harmless" holiday it is
thought to be, instead it is believed to be a pagan ritual which dates back to
the ancient Celtic Druids. According to the article "Should Our Kids Celebrate
Halloween?" in Catholic Digest Halloween\'s origin is very much Christian and
American.
Although the ancient Celts celebrated a minor festival on the 31st of
October, it fell on that day because the Feast of All Saints or "All Hallows"
falls on November 1st. During the 840s Pope Gregory IV gad All Saints Day to be
celebrated everywhere. The day before the feast became known as "All Hallows
Even" or "Hallowe\'en". At the time, that day did not have any real significance.
In the year of 998, the abbot of the monastery of Cluny in southern France, St.
Odilo added a celebration on November 2nd called All Souls Day. The new
celebration was a feast whose purpose was to recognize those in heaven and in
purgatory.
The tradition of dressing up in costumes on Halloween is derived from
the Feast of All Souls Day in France. During the 14th and 15th centuries when
Europe was hit by outbreaks of the bubonic plague, about half of its population
was wiped out. Since life spans were greatly shortened because of the plague,
Catholics began to focus on the after life. The number of Masses help largely
increased and people of all social classes gathered to dress in different
garments and lead lost spirits to the tomb in a daisy chain which became known
as the "Dance of Death".
Dressing up did not become part of Halloween until the creation of the
British colonies in North America. During that period of time, Catholics had no
legal rights in England. At times English Catholics attempted to resist. One
such occasion was a plot to destroy King James I and his Parliament with
gunpowder. The plan was ill-conceived and easily foiled when the guard of the
powder, Guy Fawkes, was found and hung on November 5, 1605. The date became
widely celebrated in England. Bands of revelers began to wear masks on that date
and visited local Catholics during the night demanding beer and cakes for their
celebration. This is the root of what has become known as "trick or treat!".
As French and Irish Catholics immigrated into the colonies, they began to inter-
marry. The combination of their traditions mixed with people of other
nationalities is what led to the current way we celebrate Halloween.
In conclusion, Halloween is not the occult which most people believe, it
is the product of several cultures including Christianity.

Category: Religion