With Halloween closely approaching I wanted to post something about it here. This time of year especially, Halloween is cause for many questions from my children, and rightly so! They really don't like the scary stuff and we really don't either, although I understand it has it's place as Jimmy Akin is saying in the video below. Early on in my children's life we passed out candy on Halloween and the kids enjoyed dressing up as they do everyday of the year. Costumes and pretending is a huge part of growing up and playing, there is nothing wrong with that. Halloween is no exception!
I remember one Halloween, my oldest was three years old, and we were passing out candy together when we opened the door for my son to see his first "Scream Movie" mask. He screamed and ran away, the boy took it off and said "don't be scared I am just a kid" this made me think. How could a child who knew nothing of these scary images become so scared at his first reaction to it? I thought about how it was so natural to us as humans to get scared, especially when it is something that symbolizes evil.
How did my three year old son ignorant to evil and what evil is, become so scarred at his very first encounter? This told me that being frightened of evil and running away from it was a very natural human response. This is a good thing! After that we decided not to celebrate Halloween with negative images and I began to see Halloween for what it was actually designed to be about. We had already decided that our children would not go trick or treating, and that was a good choice for us.
Origins of The Word Halloween...
Upon my research of Halloween I learned that the word Halloween itself does not refer to evil as much as it is about the Saints, and Souls in general. Halloween or Hallowe'en (a contraction of its original title "All Hallows' Evening"), also known as All Hallows' Eve, is a yearly holiday observed around the world on October 31, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows. Simply it means the eve of All Saints Day.
The three day Halloween celebration is referred to as the All Hallow Mass in reference to the eve of All Saints Day, All Saints Day on November 1st, and All Souls Day on Nov 2nd. In Websters Dictionary it is referred to as All Hallows Even and it is simply called the day before All Saints Day. The word Halloween was first used in the 16th century, and represents a Scottish variant of the fuller All-Hallows'-Even 'evening', that is, the night before All Hallows' Day. Although the phrase All Hallows' is found in Old English (ealra halgena mæssedæg; mass-day of all saints), All-Hallows-Even is itself not seen until 1556.
So, what is it all about?
Halloween reminds us of our own mortality and should be a time when we also remember those who have passed before us. On All Saints Day we remember those faithful Christian martyrs who in their earthly life suffered many things for the Christian faith, many of them dieing for the Faith. And remembering and honoring all of those who have passed on to be with Jesus in Heaven. All Souls Day is a day that the Church has set aside each year to commemorate and pray for all souls. Another popular name in English is . In some other languages the celebration, not necessarily on the same date, is known as (Día de los Muertos or de los Difuntos in Spanish-speaking countries; halottak napja in Hungary; Yom el Maouta in Lebanon, Israel and Syria).
Here are a few Scripture verses relevant to what I just said and that indicate our relationship to the Saints.
"It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins." (2 Mac 12:46 DR)
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us." (Heb 12:1)
"If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples." (John 15:7-8)
"Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." (Rev 5:8)
"And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand." (Rev 8:4)
On All Souls Day we are reminded of all the souls, even our own, many of whom really need us to pray for them!
What About Scary Images?
One common image we see used for Halloween is ghosts as expected. Ghosts can serve as a reminder to us that Halloween (the eve of All Saints followed by All Souls Day) is about the dead.
Things like Monsters and Witches are really just a part of folklore in pretty much any cultural tradition on the planet. Just as ghost stories are apart of sitting by a campfire. Also during Halloween the images of Zombies and bodily resurrection can remind us (although imperfectly) of the hope of Christian Resurrection. Although our Zombie stories, and images don't do it much justice!
It is up to the discretion of each individual what decorations they will use on Halloween and of course how they will be used. In our home we don't put up much decorations, but I do love ghosts and skeletons. Other popular Halloween items include pumpkins, Apple's, and anything fallish since Halloween is a fall celebration.
The Halloween Samhain link
Halloween also falls on the same day as many popular harvest festivals of the past, like Samhain. Samhain is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the 'darker half' of the year. During winter they believed that the invisible world, and the physical world came together, causing many mischievous things, and some horrible things to happen to the people. They also believed that the sun god died in winter, and came back to life in spring.
In my research on Halloween, and other festivals of the same day, Halloween is a separate day to any other celebration, even if celebrated on the same day. Clearly a holiday being held on the same day as another does not constitute saying that they are the same celebration, unlike what many people may claim about Halloween, and Samhain. Just because a method of celebration, or an individual practice used in a celebration is similar, or the same even, to another holiday does not go to prove that one comes from the other, or a direct link. This still logically does not constitute the claim that one holiday originated in the other. There is just no proof that Halloween and Samhain are one and the same holiday.
Costumes, for example are used in many celebrations around the world such as the Jewish holiday of Purim. We would not say that the Jews are celebrating Halloween when they celebrate Purim due to the fact that they participate in costume wearing. Likewise all costume parties aren't Halloween parties. We also would not associate one holiday with another just because it falls on the same day as another holiday. I really feel strongly that intention and purpose has everything to do with it. We still must be careful about the messages that we put out into the world that is why logic, and common sense must always come into play.
All through out history humans have thought alike, lived alike, believed many of the same things as people do today. This alone can account for the many similarities in many of our holiday celebrations, customs, and cultures. The fact that there are similarities is not enough to say that one originated in the other. I will say that Halloween has been hijacked by some groups who make up all sorts of reasons why they are celebrating it. Those who identify as witches and Satan worshippers may use Halloween as a day to do what ever it is they do, believing some how it's the devils birthday (as if he had one) or the Pagan festival of Samhain, or any other horrible spin someone wants to put on it. I will add without a shred of proof! In fact just believing that Haloween is satanic or the devils birthday is doing the Devil a favor.
So should we celebrate Halloween? If you want to. But now that you know what Halloween is really supposed to be about maybe you should try celebrating it at Mass this year for All Saints, and All Soul's Day. Spend the three day Halloween celebration thinking about those you love who have passed on who may need our prayers, and those who are in heaven praying for you!
My final thoughts
When it comes to Halloween it is a matter of doing what feels comfortable to your family, and your beliefs. This may mean adapting Halloween to your families needs as I have done, or simple not celebrating at all, but that is up to each individual family. Many families enjoy dressing up like Saints or other non-scary characters. While others prefer scary or non religious themes.
I hope you enjoyed this post, I know it was a long time coming. I hope to continue to write interesting articles relevant to your life in the near future. I especially enjoy writing about the Christian Faith so you may see some of that in the future as well. Please check out the Bible Study tab on the top of this blog for more interesting topic.
Keep "Hallow" In Halloween and Halloween or Samhain.
Please enjoy the video below and please visit JimmyAkin.com. I have been a reader of this blog for a while now and am learning a lot, especially about the Catholic Faith. One thing I like about Jimmy's faith articles, and videos is that he has a great way of using logic and reason to faithfully explain and defend the Catholic Christian Faith.
Are Scary Halloween Costumes Okay? This was posted by my Friend Jimmy Akin on his blog JimmyAkin.com