Hallowe’en is a good example of many festivals and celebrations throughout the year which seem to have Christian orgins but actually their roots are pagan. This might be surprising as the word itself, which is a shortened form of “All Hallows’ Evening”, was invented by the Church of England in the Middle Ages.
The pagan origin is often linked to Samhain (pronounced Sowin), the Celtic festival for Summer’s End, held around the end of October. Wikipedia says, “It was seen as a time when the ‘door’ to the Otherworld opened enough for the souls of the dead, and other beings such as fairies, to come into our world. The souls of the dead were said to revisit their homes on Samhain. Feasts were had, at which the souls of dead kin were beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them.However, harmful spirits and fairies were also thought to be active at Samhain. People took steps to allay or ward-off these harmful spirits/fairies, which is thought to have influenced today’s Halloween customs.”
Pope Gregory IV switched the Church festival of All Saints Day to November 1st in the year 835 AD – a festival also known as All Hallows – when the recently dead were remembered and the saints were honoured. That explains the origin of the name, as the day before this festival was known as the eve, like Christmas Eve. This switch is similar to what happened when Christmas was placed on December 25th to tie in with the pagan festival of midwinter, or the resurrection of Christ being merged with the Anglo-Saxon pagan goddess Eostre to create the festival of Easter (more articles to come then!).
The reason for the Church taking over these pagan festivals was to build on an already-existing mood of celebration, and of course to ease the process of transition when trying to convert people. Whether you go along with the customs is for you to decide, but it is important that we recognise the origins are nothing to do with Christianity, and especially not with a Bible that teaches the truth about souls, life after death, heaven and devils which is not compatible with Hallowe’en.
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