Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love how it starts the holiday seasons off with a bang. All the leaves turning brown and the sky turning gray. Kind makes you want to walk on a winter’s day, right (Halloween dreaming Mama Papas)? Luckily, I was raised in a home that loved dressing up, watching horror flicks when the mood was right, trick or treating, and all the other wonderful things that come with celebrating this holiday.
I know that is not how it is for others. Several Christian denominations have deemed this holiday as of the devil. Odd, because the Christian faith invented this holiday, so how did we get here? Believe it or not, it’s only a recent movement within certain sects of Christianity. Of course, like always, the few are trying to ruin the party…come on now! According to an article by Olivia B. Waxman, it started in the 60s:
“In fact, it is only in the last half-century that the conversation has picked up steam, coinciding with Evangelical Christians playing a more vocal role in American political life since the ’60s — and with American culture pushing the boundaries of what had once seemed normal.
“There’s a nascent opposition to Halloween,” says Jason C. Bivins, author of Religion of Fear: The Politics of Horror in Conservative Evangelicalism, citing anxiety over the glorification of “occult themes” by rockers like Black Sabbath and the fear that devil-worship might be taking place. “There’s a real sense in the early 1970s that people are starting to almost aestheticize evil, and [opponents] see that in rock music and the increased popularity of Halloween.”
Culture always plays a role within our faith traditions, doesn’t it? We seem to get confused in how our traditions coincided with culture. We always want them to be separate but, in the end, they always must learn to get along. We have to embrace collaboration not ostracization (busting flows over here).
Here are 5 points from Episcopalian Priest Lawrence Recla that show how Halloween was created by people of the Jesus faith. Maybe we can appreciate some of our traditions for being more versatile than we thought, huh people?
Halloween is a Christian Holiday
- People claim that Halloween came from a pagan Irish festival of the dead called Samhain. But that claim did not appear until the mid-20th century, and there are no records of the celebration of Samhain until the 10th century, almost 600 years after the coming of Christianity to Ireland. Even then, Samhain was a seasonal festival, the end of the harvest and beginning of winter. There ARE records of Irish Christians celebrating All Saints Day in 843 AD, however.
- Halloween is based on All Saint’s Day, not the other way around. Everything you read about October 31 being the time when ancient Celts believed the spirits walk the earth and must be placated with food or they will play tricks, and the living must dress up in disguise to fool the evil spirits–none of it is true. There is no primary-source evidence for it, and plenty that shows that this was something made up in the 20th century. There were indeed ancient Celtic festivals of the dead/spirits but they were not near the day we know as Halloween.
- It is also not true that the Church tried to take over this supposedly-popular ancient Irish holiday of Samhain and “Christianize” it, stealing it from the non-Christian Irish. Pope Gregory III moved Hallowmas (what we know as All Saints’ Day) to November 1st in the *8th century*, when leaders in Rome did not care one bit what the backwater Irish were doing. Before that, All Saints had been celebrated in May, and had been celebrated since the 2nd century. Keeping in mind calendar changes (Julian to Gregorian) and the fact that Samhain was a lunar festival, not solar–there is no evidence to support the fixed date of October 31 as being anything other than the Eve of All Hallows, shortened to “Hallow E’en.”
- Halloween is great fun–one of my absolute favorite holidays!– but the traditions and backstory we associate with it are both modern and Anglo-American, not the 20th century inventions of ancient pagan roots portrayed in the media and popular culture. Don’t believe everything you watch on the “History” Channel: Halloween is a child of the Church.
- Christians should absolutely be free to observe Halloween, and All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2) as a time to give thanks for the saints, and for all our beloved dead, and to tweak the nose of Satan, too, knowing that no matter what beasties and creepy clowns and ghosts may be lurking in the dark night, Christ always has the final victory over the devil, and death has no power over us ever again!
Halloween has its roots in the Christian world. Can we be more kind towards good old Halloween my crazy Christians compadres? It’s time to own it and rock the shit out of this holiday! Or not. If you don’t dig this holiday and don’t want to celebrate it, it’s all good. Let’s be gracious towards each other and give freedom to how we decide to celebrate.
“Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths.”