There is an abundance of information about the origins of Halloween, from extremist views that condemn the custom to supporters who get swept up the festivities.
People have an emotional attachment to Halloween. They have fond memories and cherished photographs chronicling generations of Halloween celebrations and costumes.
Some who participate in the celebration of Halloween are unaware of its origins, while others are aware but don’t believe they matter.
The Origins of Halloween
The History Channel traces the origins of Halloween to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain.
More than 2000 years ago the Celts occupied the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and Northern France.
Samhain was celebrated on October 31st to mark the end of the summer and the harvest. The Celts associated the approach of the cold, dark days of winter with death and believed that on October 31st the boundary between the worlds of the dead and living became blurred and the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. The Celts wore costumes designed to look like harmful spirits to avoid harm from the spirit realm. As the Roman Empire extended its boundaries, many customs, such as Halloween practiced by ancient Celts, were incorporated and assimilated into holidays celebrated today.
Halloween Today – Just a Secular Holiday?
We commonly refer to Halloween as a “holiday.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “holiday” as “holy day,” or “a day set aside for special religious observance.” However, there are also secular or non-religious holidays, such as the Fourth of July or Labor Day. Can we accept Halloween as it is celebrated today as simply a secular holiday, or do the origins of Halloween constitute it a religious holiday?
Halloween is the most popular “holiday” among the Wicca and Paganist religions. Reference material The Pagan Library describes Halloween as a “time to reconnect with dead ancestors” and “the time when those of necromantic talents can speak with the dead.”
Halloween is the domain of Wiccans and Paganists in the same way that the Fourth of July is celebrated by patriotic Americans. The Fourth of July is an historical event which has no relevance to the French, Italian or Argentine. To them, it’s just another day. If they were to participate in any celebration on that day, it might call into question their loyalty to their own government.
A Growing Tolerance of Spiritism
Just as the Roman Empire saw the benefit in fusing religions of conquered lands, as a global society today the lines of astrology, spiritism and the paranormal with mainstream Christianity is considerably obscured.
For centuries the United States has considered itself a “Christian” country. Political leaders are generally expected to have a belief and faith in God, but not too extreme, and certainly not too controversial.
Some years ago a media sensation was created when Time Magazine revealed that the wife of a former President of the United States consulted an astrologer. The general populace was shocked and offended that the origin of political decisions were based on guidance from the spirit realm. The article provided insight into the President’s mindset by stating that his “superstitions coexist unabashedly alongside a deep, if unstructured, Christian faith…untroubled by the contradictions between paranormal phenomena, intrigue…and strict church doctrine, which rejects such deviations as tools of the devil.”
Have we come to view the origins of Halloween as irrelevant because of a tolerance and permissiveness towards spiritism?
Take Away the Candy and the Costumes and You Have…
An illustration might provide perspective.
Imagine that you are looking to purchase a home for you and your family. Some states require sellers to disclose certain events, such as a murder or unnatural death that occurred on the property. Would you hesitate to buy a home that was the scene of several grisly murders? Most would. It wouldn’t matter how nice the house looked with a fresh coat of paint, or new carpet, or pretty little flowers in window boxes. If the event were particularly heinous, the house might even be destroyed and a new one built in its place. Even still, some might not want to live there. They might not even want to live across the street or even in the same neighborhood.
Some may bristle at associating a murder crime scene with Halloween, or even an ancient celebration honoring the dead. The illustration should highlight that we commonly associate and compare things. Many parents would hesitate to name their child “Adolf” because of its association. There is certainly nothing wrong with the name, but we reasonably associate it with tragic events.
Halloween is big business. One quarter of all candy sold in the United States is purchased for Halloween. MSN recently reported that Americans spend more than $5 billion each year on Halloween costumes, cards, candy and decorations. While the celebration of Halloween continues to feed the commercial giant, individuals in many churches – from Catholics to Baptists to Methodists to Protestants – are choosing not to participate.
Halloween Origins Matter
All decisions we make are based on degrees of emotion and knowledge. A problem is created when we make a decision based solely on emotion and ignore facts. For example, emotion may prompt us to buy a box of See’s candy and consume it in its entirety in the car on the way home. Knowledge tells us that there are more than 2000 calories in that one-pound box of chocolate.
Knowledge is being aware of facts. Wisdom is applying that knowledge. We accept that when emotions increase, intelligent reasoning decreases.
We should never allow our emotional attachment to something to suppress our reason and logic. Recognizing the origins of Halloween, an individual’s conscience may prompt them to look for other opportunities and occasions where they can enjoy a festive time with family without showing honor by invoking the spirit realm.
The only way to remove these elements from Halloween is to not celebrate Halloween at all.