Where did Halloween come from? What is Halloween really all about? Have you ever asked yourself, “Who in the world ever thought of the idea of walking around in weird costumes, trick or treating, and/or putting a carved-out pumpkin in your window?”
Halloween is really one of the strangest days of the year. How did the celebration of such a day ever got started?
The many customs we have today in relation to Halloween have their origins in the religious practices of the Romans and the Druids. The Romans worshiped various gods, and on October 31st, a special feast was held in honor of Pomona, goddess of the fruit trees. Later, the Druids, an ancient order of Celtic priests in Britain, made this feast an even more extensive celebration by also honoring Samhain, lord of the dead. This was normally done on November 1st and it was therefore decided to conveniently honor both Pomona and Samhain on October 31st and November 1st.
These Druids believed that on the night of October 31st, Samhain called together wicked souls or spirits which had been condemned to live in the bodies of animals during the year which had just transpired. Since they were afraid of these spirits, they chose October 31st as a day to sacrifice to their gods, hoping they would protect them. They believed that on this day they were surrounded by strange spirits, ghosts, witches, fairies, and elves, who came out to hurt them. In addition to this, they also believed that cats were holy animals, as they considered them to represent people who lived formerly, and as punishment for evil deeds were reincarnated as a cat. All this explains why witches, ghosts, and cats are a part of Halloween today.
The custom of trick-or-treating and the use of “jack-o'-lanterns” comes from Ireland. Hundreds of years ago, Irish farmers went from house to house, begging for food in the name of their ancient gods, to be used at the village Halloween celebration. They would promise good luck to those who gave them food, and made threats to those who refused to give. They simply told the people, “You treat me, or else I will trick you!”
The apparently harmless lightened pumpkin face or “jack-o'-lantern” actually is an old Irish symbol of damned soul. A man named Jack was supposed to be able unable to enter heaven due to his miserliness, and unable to enter hell because he had played practical jokes on the devil. As a result, he was condemned to wander over the earth with his lantern until judgment day. The Irish were so afraid that they would receive an identical plight, so they began to hollow out pumpkins and place lighted candles inside to scare away evil spirits from their home.
During the Middle Ages (about 600 years ago), the Roman Catholic Church decided to make the changeover from pagan religion to Christianity a bit easier, and therefore allowed the new converts to maintain some of their pagan feasts. It was decreed that they would be celebrated as “Christian” feasts. So instead of praying to their heathen gods, they would now pray to, and remember the deaths of saints. For this reason the church decided to call November 1st the “Day of All Saints,” and the mass to be celebrated on that day “Alhallowmass.” In consequence of this, the evening prior to this day was named, “All Hallowed Evening” which subsequently was abbreviated as “Halloween.” In spite of this effort to make October 31st a “holy evening,” all the old customs continued to be practiced, and made this evening anything but a holy evening. Any time we compromise the truth it corrupts the truth. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we are to pray to dead saints. In fact, the Bible forbids this practice.
Halloween today is most definitely not a holy evening. This annual event is far from the harmless, innocent tradition it is promoted to be. Many dread this “holy” evening as they think what could happen to them, their property, and/or their children. Consistent with its historical roots, this evening is characterized by fear. The fear generated by this event is symbolic of the fear which plagues so many in our modern, morally bankrupt world. It is a gripping fear for an unknown and threatening future, a fear caused by a gnawing inner emptiness.
As Christians we may see the day of the Lord soon approaching. Can we really justify celebrating an obviously pagan holiday on this or any day?