A different history of Halloween
Halloween began to evolve as early as AD 270 from the Celt’s culture in Ireland who practiced a special costume party event the night before their annual feast of Samhain, which had a two-fold purpose. The feast was not only a memorial to commemorate their deceased relatives but also a thanksgiving to close the end of the summer season of light and to prepare diligently for entering into the darkness of the long winter season. Costumes and treats were a traditional part of the Celtic celebration.
Superstition has it that the eve before the feast was then a time to ward off any evil spirits which they believed were cast out or released from the spirit world realm into their physical world. Believing that demons, witches and hobgoblins were real and existed, October 31 then became an annual costume event to fool the evil spirits into thinking they were not humans to be harmed.
Other historians trace the origin of Halloween back to the ancient and enduring Christian tradition of celebrating the lives of Christian martyrs on the anniversaries of their deaths. On May 13, 609, Pope Boniface IV established a day of celebratory remembrance for all of the Church’s martyrs. Pope Gregory III later changed the date to November 1 when he dedicated a chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica to all saints. November 1 became All Saints or All Hallows Day. The night before became All Hallows Eve contracted to Halloween. While Halloween began as a localized celebration, Pope Gregory IV extended its observance to all of Christendom in the 9th Century AD.
When Christianity came to Ireland, the Celts combined the tradition of their feast on November 1 and All Hallows Eve together with the Gospel. The Christian monks decided it would be an effective way to share the Gospel and to dispel and lay to rest the Celt’s superstition about ghosts and evil spirits.
Halloween and the Samhain Feast also provided an opportunity to be reminded of or learn about Christian heroes and martyrs along with the Celts continuing to officially recognize and commemorate the souls of their blessed dead who had been declared saints.
Many scholars agree that the commemoration of saints on November 1 first originated in Ireland, spread from there to England and then to the continent of Europe with the rise of Christianity.
The origin of Halloween as a secular celebration in many parts of the world goes back to Europe’s rich Christian heritage. European empires conquered most of the world in the centuries following the Age of Exploration, allowing them to export their Christian faith and festivals. With the Enlightenment of the 18th Century, secularism took root in Europe and spread to her colonies abroad. Christian holidays like Christmas, Easter and Halloween were secularized in many parts of the world. Trick-or-treating eclipsed pious regard for Christian martyrs and Halloween morphed into the form we observe today.
Ed Jones pastors Fellowship at the Ranch Church at Robson Ranch. This nondenominational church meets at the Robson Clubhouse on Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. Visit Fellowship’s website www.fellowshipattheranchchurch.com for information.