Faith, Family, Friends, Fellowship, Food, and Fun

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Halloween part 2

If you haven't read my rant about Halloween being for satan worshipers, scroll on down the page and read that first. Here is something sent to me by one of the moms in the Mom's Group from church. It is very interesting. Feel free to leave a comment (a nice one), I'd like to hear your thoughts.

The Real Story!
Father Augustine Thompson, O.P.,

We’ve all heard the allegations. Halloween is a pagan rite dating back to some pre-Christian festival among the Celtic Druids that escaped Church suppression. Even today modern pagans and witches continue to celebrate this ancient festival. If you let your kids go trick-or-treating, they will be worshiping the devil and pagan gods.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The origins of Halloween are, in fact, very Christian and rather American. Halloween falls on October 31 because of a pope, and its observances are the result of medieval Catholic piety.

It’s true that the ancient Celts of Ireland and Britain celebrated a minor festival on Oct. 31 — as they did on the last day of most other months of the year. However, Halloween falls on the last day of October because the Feast of All Saints or "All Hallows" falls on Nov. 1. The feast in honor of all the saints in heaven used to be celebrated on May 13, but Pope Gregory III (d. 741) moved it to Nov. 1, the dedication day of All Saints Chapel in St. Peter’s at Rome . Later, in the 840s, Pope Gregory IV commanded that All Saints be observed everywhere. And so the holy day spread to Ireland . The day before was the feast’s evening vigil, "All Hallows Even" or "Hallowe’en." In those days, Halloween didn’t have any special significance for Christians or for long-dead Celtic pagans.

In 998, St. Odilo, the abbot of the powerful monastery of Cluny in Southern France, added a celebration on Nov. 2. This was a day of prayer for the souls of all the faithful departed. This feast, called All Souls Day, spread from France to the rest of Europe.

So now the Church had feasts for all those in heaven and all those in purgatory? What about those in the other place? It seems Irish Catholic peasants wondered about the unfortunate souls in hell. After all, if the souls in hell are left out when we celebrate those in heaven and purgatory, they might be unhappy enough to cause trouble. So it became customary to bang pots and pans on All Hallows Even to let the damned know they were not forgotten. Thus, in Ireland, at least, all the dead came to be remembered — even if the clergy were not terribly sympathetic to Halloween and never allowed All Damned Day into the Church calendar.

But that still isn’t our celebration of Halloween. Our traditions on this holiday centers around dressing up in fanciful costumes, which isn’t Irish at all. Rather, this custom arose in France during the 14th and 15th centuries. Late medieval Europe was hit by repeated outbreaks of the bubonic plague — the Black Death — and she lost about half her population. It is not surprising that Catholics became more concerned about the afterlife. More Masses were said on All Souls’ Day, and artistic representations were devised to remind everyone of their own mortality.

We know these representations as the "Dance Macabre" or "Dance of Death," which was commonly painted on the walls of cemeteries and shows the devil leading a daisy chain of people — popes, kings, ladies, knights, monks, peasants, lepers, etc. — into the tomb. Sometimes the dance was presented on All Souls’ Day itself as a living tableau with people dressed up in the garb of various states of life. But the French dressed up on All Souls, not Halloween; and the Irish, who had Halloween, did not dress up. How the two became mingled probably happened first in the British colonies of North America during the 1700s when Irish and French Catholics began to intermarry. The Irish focus on hell gave the French masquerades and even more macabre twist.

But, as every young ghoul knows, dressing up isn’t the point; the point is getting as many goodies as possible. Where on earth did "trick or treat" come in?

"Treat or treat" is perhaps the oddest and most American addition to Halloween, and is the unwilling contribution of English Catholics.

During the penal period of the 1500s to the 1700s in England, Catholics had no legal rights. They could not hold office and were subject to fines, jail and heavy taxes. It was a capital offense to say Mass, and hundreds of priests were martyred.

Occasionally, English Catholics resisted, sometimes foolishly. One of the most foolish acts of resistance was a plot to blow up the Protestant King James I and his Parliament with gunpowder. This was supposed to trigger a Catholic uprising against their oppressors. The ill-conceived Gunpowder Plot was foiled on Nov. 5, 1605, when the man guarding the gunpowder, a reckless convert named Guy Fawkes, was captured and arrested. He was hanged; the plot fizzled.

Nov. 5, Guy Fawkes’ Day, became a great celebration in England, and so it remains. During the penal periods, bands of revelers would put on masks and visit local Catholics in the dead of night, demanding beer and cakes for their celebration: trick or treat!

Guy Fawkes’ Day arrived in the American colonies with the first English settlers. But, buy the time of the American Revolution, old King James and Guy Fawkes had pretty much been forgotten. Trick or treat, though, was too much fun to give up, so eventually it moved to Oct. 31, the day of the Irish-French masquerade. And in America, trick or treat wasn’t limited to Catholics.

The mixture of various immigrant traditions we know as Halloween had become a fixture in the Unites States by the early 1800s. To this day, it remains unknown in Europe, even in the countries from which some of the customs originated.

But what about witches? Well, they are one of the last additions. The greeting card industry added them in the late 1800s. Halloween was already "ghoulish," so why not give witches a place on greeting cards? The Halloween card failed (although it has seen a recent resurgence in popularity), but the witches stayed. So, too, in the late 1800s, ill-informed folklorists introduced the jack-o’-lantern. They thought that Halloween was druidic and pagan in origin. Lamps made from turnips (not pumpkins) had been part of ancient Celtic harvest festivals, so they were translated to the American Halloween celebration.

The next time someone claims that Halloween is a cruel trick to lure your children into devil worship, I suggest you tell them the real origin of All Hallows Even and invite them to discover its Christian significance, along with the two greater and more important Catholic festivals that follow it.


Renee said...

Wonderful post! Thanks for the info. Have a happy and wonderful Halloween!


Kathy's Korner said...

thank you for sharing this!! If you don't mind, I'd like to borrow it and share with some people!

Texas Aggie in Florida said...

But if you think about it, isn't it just like Satan to take something of Christian origin and distort it and twist it into something that glorifies evil? Satan has done the same thing with Christmas. It's no longer about Christ's birth. It's such a commercial holiday about Santa and trees and decorations and gift giving. And what about Easter? The bunny rather than the risen savior? Here's what I think about Halloween. And I share this in love and would never judge those who don't agree with my views. The Holy Spirit convicts us in different ways. I do allow my children to dress up and trick or treat (although trick or treating can be scary at times...those houses that go all out freak out my kids). But I personally never decorate with spiders or ghosts or witches or scary things. I'm not going to make the cookies that look like a dead person's finger or serve witch's brew to drink (although that does sound yummy). I just decorate for "Fall", you know, the harvesty decorations. I know that my children will be exposed to the evil images of Halloween because we don't live under a rock. However, we don't have to endorse that as Christian parents in our own homes. That's our way of being in the world, but not of the world (1 John 2:15; John 17:15). The images associated with modern day halloween are extremely evil and satanic in nature and stir up fear in children and fear is not of God. And the Bible does say to avoid all appearances of evil (1 Thes 5:22). So what Cary and I have decided as our middle ground on this issue, to remain culturally relevant without being sold out to the world, is that we allow the girls to participate in the fun and innocent things about Halloween without giving Satan a foothold into our home by bringing in evil images and the shows and commercials that will stir up fear in their hearts. The Charlie Brown show is fine, Mickey's not so scary halloween party is fine, but I'm not going to take them to a haunted house.

I think if you feel passionately about this issue, focus on the Christian origin of halloween in your home rather than on the way Satan has painted this as a day of doom. As your children get older, teach them what the true meaning is and find a way to keep the focus on God. Have you seen the "pumpkin prayer"? I need to put it on my blog. It's so neat. Focus on what Jesus Himself would support, not what He would be against.

Thank you for sharing the true origins of this day. It makes me very sad that the devil has distorted yet one more day that was intended to honor God.

Stephanie said...

You always say things so well! I think a good description of our Halloween is just like you see on Charlie Brown. I want the kids to enjoy dressing up as fun characters, never anything violent or evil. We will take them Trick-or-Treating to the safe houses and we will attend church festivals. We will also use the wonderful Pumpkin Prayer you posted as we carve our fun Jack-O-Lanterns. I know I am repeating myself, but Halloween is what we as parents make it for our children. It is none of my business what everyone else is doing but it saddens me to hear that parents don't do ANYTHING with their children. There is opportunity to teach bring our children up in the Word of God. I will choose to bring the focus back to God with all holidays and I hope that others will do the same. Thanks for sharing!

Texas Aggie in Florida said...

Amen Sista!