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Christianity and halloween

Michael Williams Religion

10/28/96 Essay

Halloween and Christianity

It is often said that Halloween is not the "harmless" holiday it is thought to be, instead it is believed to be a pagan ritual which dates back to the ancient Celtic Druids. According to the article "Should Our Kids Celebrate Halloween?" in Catholic Digest Halloween's origin is very much Christian and American.

Although the ancient Celts celebrated a minor festival on the 31st of October, it fell on that day because the Feast of All Saints or "All Hallows" falls on November 1st. During the 840s Pope Gregory IV gad All Saints Day to be celebrated everywhere. The day before the feast became known as "All Hallows Even" or "Hallowe'en". At the time, that day did not have any real significance. In the year of 998, the abbot of the monastery of Cluny in southern France, St. Odilo added a celebration on November 2nd called All Souls Day. The new celebration was a feast whose purpose was to recognize those in heaven and in purgatory.

The tradition of dressing up in costumes on Halloween is derived from the Feast of All Souls Day in France. During the 14th and 15th centuries when Europe was hit by outbreaks of the bubonic plague, about half of its population was wiped out. Since life spans were greatly shortened because of the plague, Catholics began to focus on the after life. The number of Masses help largely increased and people of all social classes gathered to dress in different garments and lead lost spirits to the tomb in a daisy chain which became known as the "Dance of Death".

Dressing up did not become part of Halloween until the creation of the British colonies in North America. During that period of time, Catholics had no legal rights in England. At times English Catholics attempted to resist. One such occasion was a plot to destroy King James I and his Parliament with gunpowder. The plan was ill-conceived and easily foiled when the guard of the powder, Guy Fawkes, was found and hung on November 5, 1605. The date became widely celebrated in England. Bands of revelers began to wear masks on that date and visited local Catholics during the night demanding beer and cakes for their celebration. This is the root of what has become known as "trick or treat!". As French and Irish Catholics immigrated into the colonies, they began to inter-marry. The combination of their traditions mixed with people of other nationalities is what led to the current way we celebrate Halloween.

In conclusion, Halloween is not the occult which most people believe, it is the product of several cultures including Christianity.

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