Last Sunday, people across the globe celebrated Halloween. As much as it seems like innocent fun for children or a religious holiday, Halloween for others is deemed as demon worship. Actually it’s a little bit of all the three, depending on the individual beliefs of celebrants or denouncers.
Halloween is an annual holiday observed on October 31, primarily in Ireland, Scotland, Canada and the United States. It has roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain and the Christian holiday of All Saints’ Day, however, it has today largely become a secular celebration.
People usually celebrate the day by partying, they wear pumpkin carvings, weird costumes and various tricks are usually seen. Candies of different sizes and colours are also an integral part of it. But, the big question is the origin of this ‘Halloween’ culture.
It is reported that the name has its origin back to the 16th Century in Scotland and it is just a shortened form of ‘All Hallows Even (evening)’. This oldest holiday is celebrated by carving pumpkins with grinning faces in America. This is also called ‘the Celtic New Year’ sometimes.
There was a faith that on Samhai, the border between this life and the next turns very thin thus allowing the spirits to pass through. So, on this day, people used to wear costumes like the evil spirits to pretend being a part of them.
In Ireland, the original practice was linked with ‘souling’. They used to light lanterns made of large turnips, which they call ‘Jack-o’-lantern’. Jack was an Irish scoundrel who liked to eat big red turnips. On Halloween day he trapped the devil in a tree and would not let him down until the devil promised Jack he would never live in Hell. The devil agreed.
A year later, Jack died. Because he did not believe in God, he did not go to heaven. The devil did not allow him in hell either. To help Jack find his way back to earth, the devil gave him a fiery coal. Jack put this fiery coal in the lantern he carved from his big turnip. This first “Jack-o-Lantern” helped Jack find his way back to Ireland but never found it, forever roaming the earth with his lantern.
“Trick or Treat”:
People would imitate the faeries and go from house to house begging for treats since the belief is that spirits had to be appeased by giving them a type of worship and offering (food or milk). Failure to provide the treats would result in practical jokes being visited on the owner of the house such as: blocking the chimney, leading off cattle, throwing cabbages, etc. Another way to fool or scare away the evil spirits was to dress up to look like them. It was believed the spirits would bring them no harm then.
Some of the earlier practices have changed in the recent years. For example, children are now accompanied by their parents on their rounds and they check the candy before allowing their kids to eat. This practice has evolved because of the stories of people intentionally poisoning candy.
Halloween was one of the four great “Fire Festivals” of the Celts. All the fires in hearths were extinguished and then re-kindled from a central bonfire started ceremoniously by the druids (priests of the Celts). During this time the druids would wear animal skins and heads to disguise them from the spirits. The extinguishing of the fires symbolized the “dark half” of the year and the rekindling symbolized the return of hope. Fires or candles are left burning all night to honour and welcome the dead.
The “Jack-o-lanterns”, gourds, cider, incense and gemstones are used as altar decorations. The candles are black and orange. Black cats were considered to be reincarnated beings with the ability to divine the future. Druids held the ceremonies of the feast in sacred places, such as forests, rivers, lakes and streams. Human sacrifices were part of the ceremonies.
Every act around Halloween is in honour of false gods and spirits. To pray for the dead is totally against Scripture. Now, Halloween is more of a combination of traditions from different cultures, shaped into a night of fun and celebration.
Halloween is one of the oldest holidays still celebrated today. It’s one of the most popular holidays, second only to Christmas. While millions of people celebrate Halloween without knowing its origins and myths, the history and facts of Halloween make the holiday more mysterious.
Whichever, each generation interprets the Halloween tradition, remember that Halloween, the festival as we know it today, is based on All Souls’ Day and not All Saints Day.