The History of Halloween
Each year at Halloween, parents are faced with the dilemma of what the world calls harmless fun and their own concerns about the spiritual significance of this holiday. While we all must hear God for ourselves concerning these decisions, I hope the following history of Halloween will be helpful to you and your family.
Halloween, which directly stems from Irish, Scottish, and British folklore customs, was celebrated as the Druids autumn festival. The Druids were an order of priests who worshipped nature. This holiday was originally celebrated to honor Sambain, lord of the dead, on October 31, (the end of the summer). The Druids believed that on this date, Sambain call all the wicked souls which had been condemned within the last year to live in animal bodies. He was believed to have released them in the form of spirits, ghost, fairies, witches, and elves.
According to Druidic tradition, these souls of the dead roamed the city on Halloween night and returned to haunt the homes where they once lived. The only way the current occupants of the house could free themselves from being haunted was to lay out food and give shelter to the spirit during the night. If they did not, the spirit would cast a spell on them. That is where the phrase “trick or treat “comes from: They would be tricked if they did not lay out a treat.
The jack o lantern was also a part of this belief system. The carved pumpkin symbolized a damaged soul named Jack. According to the tale, Jack was not allowed into heaven or hell. So, he wandered around in the darkness with his lantern until Judgment Day. Fearful people hollowed out turnips (and later) pumpkins in the United States, carved an evil face on them and lit a candle inside to scare him and other evil spirits away.
The Druids had other outlandish beliefs which have since turned into tradition: for example, they were afraid of Black Cats because they believed that when a person committed evil, he would be turned into a cat. Cats were thus considered to be evil. To scare them away, the Druids decorated their homes with witches, ghosts, and the like. They also decorated with corn stalks, pumpkins, and other goods in offering of thanks and praise to their false gods.
In addition to being Halloween, October the 31st was also the New Year’s Eve of the Celts and Anglo Saxons. To celebrate, they built huge bonfires on hilltops to frighten away evil spirits, and often offered their crops and animals to the evil ones as a sacrifice, sometimes they even offered themselves.
“Dad, can I dress up like a demon this year?” “Mom, can we carve a jackal lantern and put it on the porch?” Halloween… costume-clad children happily skipping from door-to-door shouting “trick or treat,” expecting to fill their bags with goodies. Houses decorated with jack o lanterns, pumpkins, witches with broom stocks and black cats. These are the most common sights of the celebration of Halloween. They are all make believe and harmless… or are they?
Dr. Robert Bryant