While most Christians readily acknowledge Halloween as a pagan and anti-Christ holiday, few are actually knowledgeable of its true history and symbolisms. Celebrating Halloween is no worse than celebrating Christmas or Easter- they’re all against the Bible and they’re all imposed as worship of a foreign god.
The term Halloween comes from hallow and eve, as it is the evening before "All Hallows Day". In Ireland, the name was Hallow Eve and this name is still used by some older people. Halloween was also sometimes called All Saints' Eve. The holiday was a day of religious festivities in various northern European pagan traditions, until it was appropriated by Christian missionaries and given a Christian interpretation. In Mexico, Belgium, and Italy, November 2nd, the day after All Hallows Day, is the Day of the Dead.1
In Great Britain and Ireland in particular, the pagan Celts celebrated the Day of the Dead on All Hallows Day (1st November). The spirits supposedly rose from the dead and, in order to attract them, food was left on the doors. To scare off the evil spirits, the Celts wore masks. When the Romans invaded Britain, they embellished the tradition with their own, which is both a celebration of the harvest and of honoring the dead. Very much later, these traditions were transported to the United States and Canada and other places in the New World.
Halloween is sometimes associated with the occult. Many European cultural traditions hold that Halloween is one of the "liminal" times of the year when the spirit world can make contact with the natural world and when magic is most potent.2
The festival of All Saints, also sometimes known as "All Hallows," or "Hallowmas" ("hallow" meaning "holy," and "mas" meaning "Mass"), is a feast celebrated in their honour. All Saints is also a Christian formula invoking all the faithful saints and martyrs, known or unknown which is tied into ancestral and relic worship of Easter religions and old Roman Catholic tradition.
The Roman Catholic holiday (Festum omnium sanctorum) falls on November 1, followed by All Souls Day on November 2, and is a Holy Day of Obligation, with a vigil and an octave. The Eastern Orthodox Church's All Saints is the first Sunday after Pentecost and as such marks the close of the Easter season.3
Common commemorations by several churches of the deaths of martyrs began to be celebrated in the 4th century. The first trace of a general celebration is attested in Antioch on the Sunday after Pentecost. This custom is also referred to in the 74th homily of John Chrysostom (407) and is maintained to the present day in the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Irish also maintained this date, but the German church began the custom of celebrating it on November 1. (It was once commonly held to be fixed by the date of Samhain, but as Samhain was a pagan Irish feast, the German origin makes this claim dubious.) It spread from there until the date of festival was universally changed to November 1 by Pope Gregory III (731–741). He designated November 1 as the date of the anniversary of the consecration of a chapel in St. Peter's for the relics "of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world". By the time of the reign of Charlemagne, the November festival of All Saints was widely celebrated. November 1 was decreed a day of obligation by the Frankish king Louis the Pious in 835 issued "at the instance of Pope Gregory IV and with the assent of all the bishops."3
Samhain is the word for November in Irish and Scottish Gaelic. The same word was used for the first month of the ancient Celtic calendar, and in particular the first three nights of this month, the festival marking the beginning of the winter season. Elements of the festival are continued in the traditions of All Souls Day and Halloween. The name is also used for one of the sabbats in the Neo-Pagan wheel of the year. Samhain Eve, in Irish and Scots Gaelic, Oidhche Shamhna, is one of the principal festivals of the Celtic calendar, and is thought to fall on or around the 31st of October. It represents the final harvest. In modern Ireland and Scotland, the name by which Halloween is known in the Gaelic language is still "Oíche/Oidhche Shamhna".
Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. Even into Christian times, villagers cast the bones of the slaughtered cattle upon the flames, cattle having a prominent place in the pre-Christian Gaelic world. The English word 'bonfire' derives from these "bone fires," but the Gaelic has no such parallel. With the bonfire ablaze, the villagers extinguished all other fires. Each family then solemnly lit its hearth from the common flame, thus bonding the families of the village together.
According to Irish mythology, during that night the great shield of Scathach was lowered, allowing the barriers between the worlds to fade and the forces of chaos to invade the realms of order, the material world conjoining with the world of the dead. At this time the spirits of the dead and those yet to be born walked amongst the living. The dead could return to the places where they had lived and food and entertainment were provided in their honour. In the three days preceding Samhain, the Sun God Lugh, maimed at Lughnassadh (August 1), dies by the hand of his Tánaiste (counterpart or heir), the Lord of Misrule. Lugh traverses the boundaries of the worlds on the first day of Samhain. His Tanist is a miser and, though shining brightly in the winter skies, he gives no warmth and does not temper the breath of the Crone, Cailleach Bheare, the north wind.
In parts of western Brittany Samhain is still heralded by the baking of kornigou, cakes baked in the shape of antlers to commemorate the god of winter shedding his "cuckold" horns as he returns to his kingdom in the Otherworld. The Romans identified Samhain with their own feast of the dead, the Lemuria. This, however, was observed in the days leading up to May 13. With Christianization, the festival in November (not the Roman festival in May) became All Hallows' Day on November 1st followed by All Souls' Day, on November 2nd, after which the night of October 31 was called All Hallow's Eve, and the remnants festival dedicated to the dead eventually morphed into the holiday known as Halloween.4
In some types of neopaganism, particularly those influenced by Wicca, Samhain is one of the eight solar holidays or sabbats. It is celebrated in the northern hemisphere on October 31 or November 1 and in the southern hemisphere on May 1. The holiday, with Beltane (Spring Break), is one of the most popular among Neopagans, and public Samhain rituals invariably attract large gatherings. It is the last of the harvest festivals (after Lammas and Mabon); in some traditions it symbolizes the death of the old god. Among the sabbats, it is preceded by Mabon (Witches Thansgiving) and followed by Yule (Christmas). From an astrological perspective, the setting of Pleiades, the winter stars, heralds the supremacy of night over day and the start of the dark half of the year that is ruled by the realms of the moon.5
Trick or Treating
The earliest mention of the term "trick-or-treating" shows up in 1939, although the practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays goes back to the Middle Ages. Trick-or-treating comes from the late 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. It originated in the British Isles, and is still popular in Ireland, and in some parts of England and Scotland. In Scotland and the North of England, it is called guising because of the disguise or costume worn by the children. However there is a significant difference from the way the practice has developed in the United States.
In Scotland, the children are only supposed to receive treats if they perform tricks for the households they go to. These tricks normally take the form of a simple joke, song or funny poem which the child has memorized before setting out. Occasionally a more talented child may do card tricks, play the harmonica, or something even more impressive, but most children will earn plenty of treats even with something very simple. However, guising is falling out of favor somewhat, being replaced in some parts of the country with the American form of trick-or-treating. In modern Ireland there is no "trick" involved (neither the Scottish party trick nor the American jocular threat), just "treats" — in the form of apples or nuts given out to the children. However, in 19th and early 20th century Ireland it was often much more exuberant — for example, slates were placed over the chimney-pots of houses filling the rooms with smoke and field gates were lifted off their hinges and hung from high tree branches.
The ancient Celtic peoples of the British Isles believed that from sundown to sunup of the holiday of Samhain (later All Hallows Eve and Halloween) the mortal world and the spiritual world were closer and more easy to travel between than at any other time of the year. This was the time that people who had died could most easily visit the mortal world.
Samhain was not a scary holiday until the priests trying to Christianize the "benighted pagans" decided that "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!" and slowly convinced the majority of people that returning spirits were bad, and that they should not be welcomed, but scared away instead. This attitude allowed the people to retain their favorite holiday traditions (putting out food for the returning spirits, parading around with candleholders made of hollowed-out gourds, building bonfires and other activities depending on the region) while staying on the good side of the church.1
The wearing of costumes was developed to fool the dead spirits that supposedly came back on this day. With the Christianization of the day it became even more important to dress up to fool the bad spirits- simply to continue in your traditions. In 19th-century Scotland and Ireland the reason for wearing such fearsome (and non-fearsome) costumes was the belief that since the spirits that were abroad that night were essentially intent on doing harm, the best way to avoid this was to fool the spirits into believing that you were one of them.2
While Halloween can be identified by anything from the Devil and Ghosts to Frankenstein and Dracula its primary image is that of the Jack- o- lantern. A jack-o'-lantern is a pumpkin, turnip or rutabaga whose top and stem have been carved off and interior removed to leave a hollow shell. Sections of a side are carved out to make a design, usually a face and then a light source (typically a candle) is inserted in hollowed shell to illuminate the face. This practice began in Ireland and is practiced throughout Europe primarily by carving the readily available beet, turnip, or rutabaga. The Pumpkin which was more readily available in the America’s is the most popular today.
The practice of carving a jack-o'-lantern goes back to the Irish legend of Jack, a lazy but shrewd farmer who used a cross to trick the Devil, then refused to free him unless he agreed to never let Jack into Hell. The Devil agreed. When Jack died, he was too sinful to be allowed into Heaven, but the Devil wouldn't let him into Hell. So, Jack carved out one of his turnips, put a candle inside it, and began endlessly wandering the Earth for a resting place. He was known as "Jack of the Lantern", or Jack-o'-Lantern.1
There are variations on the legend. Some of which include:
Ø The Devil mockingly tossing a coal from the fires of Hell at Jack, which Jack then places in the turnip.
Ø Jack tricking/trapping the Devil a variety of ways, including placing a key or other item in the Devil's pocket when the Devil is suspended in the air or plucking an apple from a tree.
Ø Jack's bargain with the Devil being different. In some variations, the deal is only a temporary bargain, but the Devil, embarressed and vengeful, refuses Jack entry after Jack dies.
The Catholic Church tells the tale of Jack as an independent man who out smarted the devil trying to make his own way to heaven, but fell short. His spirit is celebrated in the commemoration of the Jack o Lantern.2
While the Catholic Church readily denounces the practices of astrology, palm reading, etc. as shown below:
"All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to "unveil" the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone." (Catechism, #2116)
They (Roman Catholic) implement other forms of divination and necromancy in their holidays and mass celebrations. We of the protestant faiths such as Methodists, Baptists, Pentecostals, etc. often fail to understand that while we protested against some aspects of the Roman Catholic Church- much of their teachings remained in our interpretation of religion, especially when looking at denominational liturgy and holiday celebration. Denominations still practicing these things while renouncing other Roman doctrines are still to be considered the daughters of Babylon.
By now you should have a general understanding of each Christian holiday’s pagan roots, their general history and symbolism, and how there is no biblical precedent for their celebration in scripture. With that in mind you must make a decision- will you obey God or continue in false religion? The following chapters will equip you with a basic understanding of the shift in the modern church and where we go from here.