The Curious Origins of Halloween
Every October 31st we cake on cheap make-up, forego our “don’t talk to strangers” rule, and pile in more chocolate than Augustus Gloop.
Yup, Halloween. But it seems to be getting weirder… and more gruesome.
So what are it’s origins anyway?
Turns out, it’s a curious tale. Here’s some background from my friend and fellow-pastor Alex Douglas based on some research he did:
“Halloween began in Ireland and Scotland around 2000 years ago – right around the time Jesus’ adult ministry began actually. On October 31 the ancient Irish and Scots celebrated the end of the summer and began preparing for winter. This day was also the ancient Celtic New Year – the day that was neither last year, nor the year to come – and a great day to play pranks!
“The Celts also believed that on this, “in-between day,” spirits would wander the earth. So, logically, they dressed up in crazy outfits and made loud noises to confuse and scare them.
When Roman Catholicism spread to Ireland and Scotland in the fifth century they decided to make their own special day at the end of October – All Saints Day – a time to honour all the Roman Catholic Saints.
“This is where the name “Halloween” comes from – it is the Englishization (yes, I just made up that word) of the term, “All Hallows Eve.” Part of this new tradition involved families going door to door asking for small cakes in exchange for the promise to pray for that household.”
For many of us, Halloween is about two things:
First, it’s about getting dressed up in costumes and pumping ourselves full of those cute mini-bags of chips and uber-tasty rocket candies.
Second, it’s about connecting with our neighbours.
But there’s a growing, dark macabre I find disturbing. The blood and violence displayed today would never have appeared so publicly even 20 years ago. (A few houses down from a local public school bloody dismembered body parts are dangling from trees.)
Plus, the costumes are becoming more realistic, gruesome, and (sometimes) hyper-sexualized.
Maybe at this point a few of you think I’m being an over-sensitive pastor. But based on the conversations I’ve had with others—including many who don’t share my faith—it’s not just me.
Underneath it all, since many people tend to make light of things they’re afraid of, maybe some people are just dealing with their own discomfort with what happens at the end of life. Maybe.
For a few others, perhaps it’s a more sinister celebration of evil.
For others still, maybe they just like to get their freak on.
But my guess is that, as with a lot of other things, many just go with the flow of what everyone else is doing.
In life, you can’t always have a say in what happens around you; but you can have a say in what happens through you.
So for my part, we focus on the fun, sugar-highs, and connecting with neighbours. And also this:
For those of us who are Christians, it can also be a good teaching opportunity. After all, satanic evil is a reality. So Halloween can be a reminder of both 1 John 4:18, that “Perfect love casts out fear,” and also of the armour of God in Ephesians 6.
Historically, I like the connection to All Hallows Eve, where families went door to door to get small cakes in exchange for prayer. It’s much easier to buy pre-packaged chocolate bars, so I think we’ll go with that; but maybe this year I’ll use it is a chance to pray God’s best on every ghoul, Spiderman and Princess Elsa who walks up our driveway.
As for my costume, I think I’ll be a cowboy. But don’t expect to see anything on Facebook. I’m too vain!