Friday, October 17, 2008

So if you are not aware, it is October and that means Halloween is near. Of course, not knowing this in America means you must be living in a cave and therefore must not be reading anything on the internet so I'm guess you aren't reading this right now which means I'm talking to myself … kinda worries me a bit but that's ok.

Anyways, Christians have a love to hate relationship with Halloween. A lot of churches, though, want to provide a safe place for their children and make an outreach for the neighborhood kids. I think that is great, but let's consider the names for these parties. Typically you get something along the lines of "Fall Festival" or "Harvest Party." We also like to take similar sounding words and call it a "Hallelujah Party." It starts off the same but then we hit you with church halfway through the word.

This is because we've been told all these horror stories about how evil Halloween is. Now I'd like to try and find out what is really going on with the holiday. Way back in time various cultures celebrated the fall harvest by worshiping the spirits or gods associated with the harvest. These harvest festivals (sound familiar) typically involved fruits and vegetables that symbolize the fall harvest. Wheat, pumpkins, apples, and other like items were used in these varied pagan holidays. October 31st, specifically, was a Celtic tradition that revolved around the Celtic calendar which ended on the last day of fall and began with the first day of winter. Because many cultures, even ours, associate winter with death this became a day of spirits. As the Romans took over their fall feasts became incorporated into Samhain's day.

Then the Roman Catholic Church came on the scene. Starting with Constantine the church began to incorporate various pagan holidays into Christian traditions. This was typically done to appease various cultures that had long celebrated a particular feast. I can understand the thinking on this. After all, let's say I was use to getting the 4th of July off from work. If the president and congress suddenly decided that we didn't need to celebrate a day that marked bloodshed and so cancelled the holiday I would get pretty upset. In fact, huge portions of the country would get upset.

The RCC didn't want to leave the full traditions in place, because they were pagan after all, but they didn't want to change too much. They kept the date, but changed the purpose from keeping the dead in the realm of the spirit to celebrating the saints. Perhaps you have heard the phrase "All Saints Day?" Many saints in the RCC have a day dedicated to them, but this day is dedicated to all saints. The name "Halloween" then was introduced by the Church as "All Saints Evening" or more commonly "All Hallows Eve."

Fast forward to last century when it was decided that Halloween was a pagan holiday. Never mind that we celebrate plenty of other pagan holidays as Christian holidays, this one must be particularly bad. Of course we can't do away with the entire holiday. After all, our kids want to dress up and get candy just like everyone else. We let them keep many of the traditions of this evil holiday, but not the name. After all Halloween is a name of pure evil, so instead we give it a name like "Harvest Festival." In other words, we go back to celebrating the harvest and dedicate the party to the Lord of the harvest just like the pagans did. In fact we reject a Christian name given to a pagan Holiday in favor of an even more pagan tradition.

Does anyone else see the irony here? Christmas has extremely similar roots, but we get totally offended when people try to give it a different name even though it was assigned by the RCC as well. Why do we have such a double standard on these two holidays? Why do we have to make things so confusing with our names that have gone back to their original forms? Do we really want to reach our community when we give them trick names like "Hallelujah Party?"

I say either celebrate Halloween in a safe Christian place so your kids can have fun and the neighbor kids will actually know what they are being invited to, or just turn out your lights and huddle in the dark afraid of all the evil spirits running around … oh wait that is exactly what the Celts were dealing with on Samhain's day. My bad.

2 comments:

jenn3 said...

I'm with you on this one.

jake - aka the comment novelist said...

In the environment I grew up in, it seemed to vary by pastor. I remember being a little kid of 4 or 5 and being at the church for a Halloween party, standing in a Sunday school classroom, and having our pastor, dressed as a vampire, scare the crap out of me at the window.

I've also been places where they go to the other extreme and tell you how you're a bad parent if you let your kids dress up and go trick-or-treating.

Why hasn't anyone treated Christmas the same as we've treated that other pagan holiday?

You know this one. Say it with me:

Nobody, but nobody messes with the Sweet Baby Jesus.

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