Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween and All Saints Day – Part I

I prepared the following as a simple discussion of Halloween for youth. I hope it is helpful to you.

Back in pre-Christian times, there was a celebration in Northern Europe called Samhain (pronounced sah-ween). Samhain celebrated the end of the harvest season, the beginning of their new year, but it also had a “spiritual” aspect. It was believed that on the night of Samhain the veil between the present world and the world beyond was pierced. It was a common belief in northern Europe that the spirits of those who died during the past year could not go to their final resting place until they were properly prepared. Therefore, the tradition was to placate the spirits of the dead by “treating” them with food, drink or other items on Samhain. It was believed that until these spirits were properly “treated” they would “trick” or haunt those who had neglected to provide them for their trip to the world beyond.

These spirits of the dead would wander around the area where they had lived and died until they could go on to wherever Celtic spirits went. Since all these spirits of the dead were wondering around on Samhain, it was also believed that demons, witches, and elves were released on that night to harass the living. These demons, witches, and elves sometimes assumed bizarre appearances, according to legend. The Druid priests would dress up in costumes to disguise themselves, and thereby protect themselves from attack by these otherworldly creatures. There was also the belief that one way to ward off these spirits and otherworldly creatures was to carve a grotesque face into a gourd or root vegetable, and put a candle inside it to light it up. That’s the origin of the jack-o-lantern.

Proper Celebration of Halloween

What do you think about celebrating Halloween now that you know its pagan origins? Since Halloween has become a secular holiday with no real meaning, do you think it is wrong for Christian children to go trick or treating, or to have a Halloween party? Parents may not want children going around to strangers’ houses these days for other reasons, so parties are becoming more and more popular.

In my opinion, what is inappropriate are some of the Halloween decorations you see, especially in private homes. What turns me off the most is to see straw-filled human effigies hanging from trees in people’s front yards. If people want to decorate, I think a fall theme is nice (such as pumpkins) but witches, ghosts, fake gravestones, and dead bodies are not suitable in my opinion. It is interesting that one school district in Connecticut has said that if the kids want to wear a costume to school on Halloween, it is OK as long as it is a consume of a positive role model.

A good guideline for Halloween as well as for anything in life is that we should not do anything that would compromise our faith or bring dishonor to the Lord Jesus Christ.

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