Origin of Halloween

The seismic social change in our society is seen in the celebration of Halloween. For years it was a minor event participated in innocently by little children with little public attention given the spiritual significance. It comes the day before a long held Christian celebration of paying tribute to dead loved ones by putting flowers on their graves. The day is called All Saints Day. The latter was given a lot of attention and proved to be a good day for florists. Now little attention is given All Saints Day and Halloween is one of the five most celebrated days of the year.

Halloween has its roots dating back before the time of Christ. The ancient Druids in Britain, France, Germany, and the Celtic countries had a celebration honoring some fo their deities. A primary one was Samhain, Lord of the Dead. Reputedly Samhain called together all souls of those who had died during the last twelve months and had them condemned to inhabit animal bodies. It was a celebration of the dead conducted on the first day of the Celtic new year, the last day of October.

Trick-or-Treat grew out of the belief all souls of the dead returned to their former homes on this night to be entertained by the living. If acceptable food and drink was not provided for these evil spirits, they would cast a spell causing havoc and terror. Trick-or-Treat!

Around 100 AD the Christian community began imperceptible to identify indirectly with the event. About this time Roman Emperor Hadrian built the Roman Pantheon as a temple to the goddess Cybele and other deities. Romans gathered there to pray for the dead. When the pagans sacked Rome, the Pantheon fell into disrepair. When Emperor Phocas recaptured Rome in 607 AD, he gave the Pantheon to Pope Boniface IV. Boniface did not want to offend those who esteemed the Pantheon as a place to pray for the dead. To “Christianize” the place Boniface reconsecrated the Pantheon to the Virgin Mary and urged Catholics to gather there to pray for the dead. The mass initially celebrated in May each year on a day called All Saints Day was called “Allhallowsmas.”

In 834 AD the holiday was moved to the October date to coincide with the Druids celebration of the dead, which was being transformed into a Christian holiday. It eventually became known as Halloween.

There is a tendency to interpret an event in light of our experience with it. Most adults were reared in a time when it was safe to go door to door and enjoy neighbors giving them candy, a fun innocent event. Not so now.

Because of what the day has become, many parents are replacing it with a “Fall Festival Party” or an “All Saints Party” and having children costume like “good guys” and not evil demented characters. Such events have little Christian inclusion, but provide a good alternative to the preoccupation with ghouls and ghosts. Games and goodies are a vital part of such events.

As a safety feature some churches are providing “Trunk-or-Treat.” Persons put treats that might normally be given out at homes in their trunks and park in the church parking lot. It provides a much safer environment than going door to door.