In a few days the sidewalks will be filled with pint sized nurses, vampires, pixies, zombies, movie characters, rock singers, aliens and all manner of strange creatures. The roving bands will move through the neighborhoods of our town demanding plunder and threatening unpleasant consequences if the loot is not forthcoming.
The celebration of Halloween is huge business in America with a history in European Paganism and Catholic Christianity. The unmistakable pagan influences and the many costumes reflecting demons and sorcery have prompted Christians over the years to denounce Halloween as an evil holiday. Many other Christians see Halloween as nothing but harmless fun. Is Halloween evil?
Certain aspects of Halloween’s celebration are sinful and should be avoided. Drunkenness, immorality, drug use and vandalism are sin. Halloween, nor any other holiday, is justification for engaging in behavior forbidden by God. Caution is also necessary in the choice of costumes. Some things are wrong even when done in play. The real question is: is it wrong to participate in Halloween as we practice it today?
Answering this question requires some consideration of where Halloween came from and how it became what it is today. The history of Halloween is not easy to determine. Conflicting ideas abound and much error has crept into common knowledge about Halloween. People have distorted the facts to promote their own agenda. What seems undeniable about Halloween is that it finds it’s origins in two religious observances: the Celtic Samhain and the Catholic All Saints Day.
Samhain was the festival of the Celtic New Year that prepared them for the long winter ahead. The Celts believed during Samhain the barrier between living and dead was thinnest. The spirits of the dead could be seen roaming the earth. Divination- determining the future by the aid of spirits- was most effective during Samhain. The celebrations included offerings to the Celtic deities and riturals in reverence of the dead.
All Saints Day is the Catholic memorial for all the saints. In Catholic doctrine saints are those who have entered into heaven. Christians on earth and people in purgatory are not, in Catholicism, seen as saints. The evening before All Saints Day was a Hallowed Evening of preparation for the veneration to occur on the following day.
The dates of Samhain and All Saints Day coincided which resulted in the two eventually merging. The Halloween practices that followed continued to evolve over the centuries. The founding of America brought many European traditions into the New World, but Halloween was not a particularly important holiday in the newly formed United States. The late 1800’s saw a rise of American interest in Halloween, but this Halloween had been stripped of its major religious principles.
Today all that is left of the original Pagan and Catholic celebrations are a few of the many traditions. If these traditions were still practiced with their religious beliefs intact, then I would have to consider Halloween a sinful practice, as evil as worshiping Mother Earth or praying to Mary. If children wandered the streets begging food with the promise to pray for the souls of those in purgatory, then I would say confidently that participating in Halloween is sinful. If people bobbed for apples to honor the goddess, then I would say participating in Halloween is sinful. If people carved pumpkins to ward off evil spirits, then I would say participating in Halloween is sinful.
The absence of any overt religious intent in its celebration makes Halloween, in my estimation, nothing more than an excuse to dress up, get free candy and have a good time with your friends.