The medieval Christian–not pagan–origins of Halloween

We have long been told that Halloween goes back to the ancient Celtic pagan holiday Samhain.  But Baylor historian Beth Allison Barr points out that it doesn’t.  For better or worse, Halloween and its customs grew out of Medieval Christianity. [Read more…]

What percentage of Christians observe Halloween?

Seven out of ten Americans observe Halloween.  28% of evangelicals don’t.  But most Christians seem to have made their peace with the holiday.  Almost two-thirds of pastors encourage their flocks to use the occasion as an outreach opportunity.

On the other hand, the more people go to church, the more they disapprove of Halloween.  Of those who attend services once a week, 56% don’t approve of the holiday.

Where do you stand on Halloween? [Read more…]

Halloween & Reformation Day

Happy Halloween!   Happy Reformation Day!  We’ll be posting on both of those holidays today.  Both have reference, of course, to the really big holiday of the church year on the day after, All Saints’ Day.   All the ghosts and devils were thought to come out the day before All Saints’ Day, since this was their last chance before the holiness of “All Hallows” banished them back into the darkness.  And Luther pounded his theses onto the church door before the big festival the next day.

Can you make any connections between Halloween and Reformation Day?  How about between each of these holidays and All Saints’ Day?  (For example, both Halloween and All Saints’ are days of the dead, one recalling the wages of sin and the other eternal life in Heaven.)

America’s third favorite holiday

Halloween is America’s third favorite holiday,  just after Christmas and Thanksgiving. (See the whole list after the jump.)  Halloween used to be a holiday mainly for children dressing up and going trick-or-treat, but now it has been seized by adults, who also like to dress up and scare themselves.   Why do you think Halloween has become so popular in our culture?   Is there something about American individualism that makes us enjoy dressing up, putting on a mask, and pretending to be someone else?   I hear that the big Halloween dress-up thing for this year is to make yourself up to look like an Ebola victim.   The Halloween vogue would appear to be related to the aesthetics of darkness and horror that seem to be dominant in our popular culture, judging from our movies, books, films, art, television shows, and video games.  This would seem to accord with what the recent pope called our current “culture of death.”  Maybe death provides the mystery, the sense of the uncanny, the non-rational emotions even though they be horrific, that can substitute for the mystery, the sense of the supernatural, and the religious experiences associated with a transcendent faith.

I don’t intend to take an anti-Halloween stance, as such, in this post.  I’m just curious why the holiday has jumped ahead of Easter, patriotic holidays like the 4th of July, and even people’s birthdays in popularity.  What significance do you see in this? [Read more…]

Co-opting Halloween for Reformation Day

Today is Reformation Day.  Children will wear masks, symbolizing vocation (as in the princesses, ballerinas, and cowboys) or our sinful nature (as in the witches, zombies, and monsters).  We will give them the free gift of candy, symbolizing the Gospel in all of its sweetness.

The pumpkins. . . ummm. . . .When we are connected to the vine of Christ, our faith brings forth fruit.  Big fruit.  The size of pumpkins.  They have faces carved into them to remind us that our good works need to benefit an actual person; that is, be in love and service to our neighbors, whether they are smiling or looking mean.

Help me out here.  What other Halloween customs could we co-opt for Reformation Day?  Bobbing for apples?  Ghosts?  Getting scared?  What else?

 

The origins & history of Halloween

Pastor Joseph Abrahamson has a running project of refuting the notion that Christian holidays derived from pagan festivals.  You have got to read what he says about the history of Halloween. [Read more…]