Origins of Halloweenby Rit Nosotro
Change Over Time essay
Trace the origin and changes that have led to the modern celebration of Halloween
Every year on the night of October 31st, millions of children around the United States put on specially planned costumes and walk around their neighborhood, visiting every possible house with the famous phrase "trick-or-treat." And on that same night, millions of adults in the United States hand out candy, chocolate, and other treats to those children. Millions do this without thinking about it, every year of their lives, from disguising themselves as children to handing out treats as adults. One major question should be asked: Why? Why do some children disguise themselves as witches, ghouls, ogres, and other creatures generally considered evil, while others dress up as angels, knights, on the complete opposite end of the folklore spectrum? Why do adults hand out treats to children under the implied threat "trick-or-treat." Why do we celebrate Halloween?
The answers lie under years of changes, twisted by cultures, morphed by religions, contorted by the traditions of each new ethnic group this Autumn celebration encountered. As such, it is necessary to trace the origins and the history of Halloween before discussing the implications of each step in the Autumn festival’s history.
Tracing Halloween’s origins leads us back to the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in, with sow rhyming with cow). The Celts, living two thousand years ago and beyond in what is now the United Kingdom, Ireland, and northern France, celebrated their new year on what is to our calendars November 1st. However, their New Year festival began the day before, with the Samhain celebration. The Samhain festival honored the Celtic lord of death, signaled the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, a season of cold, darkness, and decay, and also ushered in a new Celtic year.1 As such, the Samhain festival was a rather big deal for the Celts. It was a harvest festival, a New Year festival, and a celebration honoring their lord of death, all wrapped into one huge event. The beginning of winter was also celebrated, but the beginning of winter is naturally connected to the end of harvest, so these two are essentially the same.
The first twist to this Autumn celebration came about 40 A.D., when the Roman Empire conquered the Celts. Two Roman Autumn festivals combined with the Celtic Samhain festival; the Feralia festival, honoring the dead, and a festival honoring the goddess of fruit and trees, Pomona.2 With the arrival of the Romans, the New Year aspect of the festival is dropped, as the Roman calendar has a different new year than the Celts. The Romans ruled the Celts for around four hundred years, during which time the Catholic church gained a strong hold in Europe. This had a huge impact as Europe changed from a place ruled completely by the Romans to a continent with many nations.
In the 800s A.D., the Catholic church replaced Samhain with All Saints’ Day, orginally to be celebrated on May 13th. This date was changed to Nov. 1st shortly thereafter by Pope Gregory III.3 In accordance with the Catholic policy of the day to incorporate pagan beliefs, ideals, and religion into the Catholic church as much as possible, the old pagan customs, traced back to the Samhain celebration, were made much a part of this holy day. Later, the Catholic church made Nov. 2nd All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. As such, pagan customs of honoring the dead with sacrifices, festivals, and celebrations remain present around the same time they were first celebrated. They have simply morphed from what they were to a half-Christian, half-pagan series of celebrations. In addition, October 31st, the day before All Saints’ Day, became known as All Hallows Eve, or All Hallow e’en. From this last term, we get the modern word 'Halloween.'
From that point until present day, there do not appear to be any major changes in the Halloween festival. Instead, the changes are more insidious. Slowly, as the world became less godly and more worldly, Halloween followed suit. It lost its Christian nature. You don't hear much about All Saints' Day anymore. The Dauphin County Library System writes, "We generally see it [Halloween] as a harmless children's celebration. And it is."4 Unfortunately, Halloween is no longer a "harmless children's celebration." Or, to be more accurate, it never was. Millions of America's children dress up as evil, despicable creatures on this night, pretending to be something with no good value. This is not harmless, it is just another demonstration of how America has fallen, slowly losing its Biblical nature under a relentless assault from ungodly worldviews.
In conclusion, it is clear Halloween has retained many of its traditions from two thousand years ago. The Celts honored their lord of death and decay with their Samhain festival, and it would appear Halloween has never completely lost that aspect. From the Catholic All Souls' Day to the costumes of the evil, dark creatures of today's American Halloween, death, decay, and darkness are still apparent in this festival. Unfortunately, they are unlikely to leave until the Lord Jesus returns to this earth, crushing all darkness and removing all death.
1. What festival do Halloween and all similar festivals ultimately originate
a) The Feralia festival
b) The Samhain festival
c) All Saints' Day
d) None of the above
2. The two gods/goddesses whose festivals were combined with the Celtic Samhain festival around 40 A.D. were...
a) Zeus and Mars
b) Apollo and Athena
c) Feralia and Pomona
d) Hades and Neptune
3. The word "Halloween" is derived from....
a) All Hallow e'en
b) A Halo evening
c) All Hail the Queen
d) None of the Above
4. Who/what changed the date of All Saints' Day, from May 13th to November 1st?
a) Pope Gregory III
b) King Henry I
d) The Versailles Peace Treaty
1. Annie's Halloween Page - http://www.annieshomepage.com/halloweenhistory.html
4. Halloween archives - http://www.dcls.org/
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