What is Halloween? Is it a harmless time of fun when children dress in costumes and go from house to house “trick-or-treating” or is there something more to it?
Opinions vary. It may have some "Christian" influence, but it is more likely to have pagan roots.
It may have a link to the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in Parentalia (the festival of the dead) but it is more commonly thought to have originated from the Celtic festival of Samhain meaning “summer’s end”. Many important events in Irish mythology happen around this time.
Held around 31 October–1 November, it marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter that was regarded as the 'darker half' of the year.
This was a time for stocktaking and preparing for the cold winter ahead when cattle were brought back from the summer pastures and livestock were slaughtered. In much of the Gaelic world, certain rituals were performed when bonfires were lit. It is believed that human sacrifices were sometimes made at that time.
Samhain was seen as a time when the 'door' to the other world opened to enable the souls of the dead and other beings such as fairies to come into our world.
The souls of the dead supposedly revisited their homes on Samhain when feasts were held, during which time the souls of dead kin were invited to attend and a place set at the table for them.
During these festivals of the dead, people took steps to protect themselves from harmful spirits, leading to such customs as guising when people would wear masks and costumes to disguise themselves to avoid being recognized by a soul. This may be the origin of modern day dressing in costumes by children at Halloween.
Where Halloween is celebrated around the world symbolic decorations have been created.
The Jack-o'-lanterns or carving of pumpkins is a well known example. This imagery of Halloween is derived from many sources, including national customs and works of Gothic and horror literature have been introduced. The novels Dracula and Frankenstein are examples. The supernatural is prominently associated with Halloween, featuring bogies (ghosts) weird-looking scarecrows, mythical monsters, symbols of dearth and evil.
The custom of trick-or-treating has been introduced whereby children go in costume from house to house, asking for treats such as candy or money, with the question, "Trick or treat?” without knowing the origin of the word trick. This word refers to a "threat" to perform mischief on the homeowners or their property if no treat is given. In this custom the child performs some sort of trick. Children often sing a song or tell a ghost story, to earn their treats, but the origin had more sinister connotations.
The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays dates back to the Middle Ages and is linked to the medieval practice of souling, when poor folk would go door to door receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day.
Halloween costumes are traditionally modeled after supernatural figures such as monsters, ghosts, skeletons, witches, and devils and now include popular characters from fiction, celebrities, ninjas and princesses.
Divination in various forms and guises is sometimes linked to Halloween. One example is the practice of trying to get a glimpse of the face of a future spouse or to carve an apple in one long strip, then toss the peel over the shoulder so that it lands in the shape of the first letter of the future spouse's name. Sometimes, single women were told that if they sat in a darkened room and gazed into a mirror on Halloween night, the face of their future husband would appear in the mirror, but if they were destined to die before marriage, a skull would appear.
All saints' day:
The name Halloween may be a blending of the words “All Hallows’ eve” or evening, referring to the evening before “all saint’s day” on November 1. The word “hallow” apparently means “holy”.
In early church history, people began to honour those who they considered to be “outstanding in holiness”, especially those who had been martyred for their faith. A special day was chosen to commemorate those special people who were called “saints”.
It should be remembered however that the term “saints” refers to All Believers and is mentioned at least sixty-one times in the New Testament. The qualifications necessary to be classed as a saint was that one was a follower of Jesus and to be a follower of the Lord means that you need to be born again (see John 3:3-16; 2 Corinthians 3:3, 5:17 etc).
Some churches celebrated the “saints” on the Sunday after Pentecost. Others chose the Friday after Easter. On May 13, 609 or 610, Pope Boniface iv dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to the Christian saints. It had been originally built to honour all the gods of Rome.
More than 100 years later, the date to commemorate the “saints” was changed to November 1 and was officially aded to the Church calendar in ad 835. By then, such recognition of “saints” included not only those who had been martyred, but those who displayed exceptional “holiness”.
The word of God clearly tells us not to embark on such things. In Colossians chapter two for example, Paul reveals how all the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in Jesus who is the head of all principalities and powers (Colossians 2:9-10). He declared in Colossians 2:14-15 that Jesus triumphed over all of the world of the enemy and erased our previous sins (up to the time we are saved). From Colossians 2:16-23, he shared how we are not to embark on such things in what is basically a warning against ceremonialism, formalism and mysticism. Compare these things with Galatians chapter 3.
The history of Samhain:
A popular idea is that Halloween started with a pagan holiday called Samhain. It also fell on November 1, causing many people to link All Saint’s day with Samhain. The ancient pagan festival of Samhain was celebrated in the northern Celtic regions, particularly in Ireland and Scotland. As there are few written records of this prior to the introduction of Christianity, we know little else.
Celtic folklore dated from around the tenth century onwards indicates that this festival marked a change in season. An old Irish word meaning “Summer’s end” signalled the onset of winter, drawing people around their home fires. Perhaps when sitting in the warmth of their hearths, various stories of elves, fairies or evil spirits were told.
Some scholars suggest that the “church” established “All saint’s day” in an effort to “christianise” this festival. Whether this is true or not remains uncertain.
My personal belief is that I do not believe in or support Halloween in any way. I simply do not agree with it and choose rather to follow the Lord Jesus and pursue after righteousness.