As our society rejects God and the Bible, people grab onto substitutes for the Christian faith. Sometimes those substitutes can be dangerous and certainly foolish. We see an increase in this activity around Halloween. Decorating with jack-o-lanterns and putting on costumes, and even trick or treating can be fun as long as it doesn’t move into witchcraft or a destructive game. However, it is important that we know something about the origin of Halloween and instruct our children about what is real and what is fantasy.
The origin of Halloween and most of its customs can be traced to an ancient pagan Celtic festival called Samhain, Gaelic for “summer’s end.” When the Roman Empire took over Celtic land, they added their traditions to Samhain and the day became known as “All Hallows Day.” Later the Catholic Church designated November 1 as All Saints Day in honor of Catholic saints. People costumed as angels and saints and paraded through the villages. Since November 1 was once called All Hallows Day, October 31 became known as All Hallows Eve, which was shortened to “Halloween”.
In the Middle Ages, women who practiced divination were called witches from the Anglo-Saxon word wicce or wise one. Superstitious people believed that these women flew out of their chimneys on broomsticks and terrorized people with magical deeds. Jack-o-lanterns and costumes were the rage during Samhain, all designed to scare off evil spirits.
Even bobbing for apples had a religious connection. Around November 1, the Roman celebrated a festival for Pomona, the goddess of fruit and orchards. The Romans believed that the first person to catch a bobbing apple with their teeth would be the first to marry in the new year. People believed that the shape of the peel thrown on the ground would be the first initial of the peeler’s true love.
You may think all of this is ancient, silly nonsense, but people believed it. In today’s world, people grab at almost anything looking for something better than what they have in this life. Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Life is serious, and Christ has given us the key to having an abundant life. Superstition and tradition may make grandiose promises, but the teachings of Christ work.
You can have fun with the fall tradition and use the origin of Halloween as a teaching opportunity. Above all, follow Christ for the best in this life and the life to come.
— John N. Clayton © 2020
Data from The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Fall and Winter 2020, pages 14-15.