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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Where In The Devil Is Halloween?!!!

Throughout the years I have come across people who wince at the thought of celebrating Halloween. They wouldn't dare allow their children to go out trick-or-treating because doing so would be participating in the Devil's holiday celebration, or even celebrating the Devil himself! Quite taken aback by these beliefs, I began researching the History of Halloween (before the convenience of google searches), and wrote a paper on this topic for one of my early college courses. Is Halloween truly the Devil's holiday? Quite the contrary!
Nowadays, it doesn't take much to find a plethora of online sources giving the history of Halloween to the masses. Speaking of "masses," October 31st begins the Triduum of Hallowmas. As most may know, November 1st is All Saints Day, and November 2nd is All Souls Day, so how does Halloween fit into this? The word "hallow" literally means "saint"! Therefore, All Hallows Eve (Halloween) literally means "the Eve of All Saints" which is a Christian celebration. No devil so far, but what about the tradition of trick-or-treating?
Trick-or-treating has a vast and rich history in many cultures throughout the world. Does it have some pagan roots in the Celtic culture? Yes it does, but so does Christmas and Easter. Do modern day pagans, and druids celebrate the Gaelic holiday of Samhain on Halloween? Yes they do, but unless you are participating directly in their celebrations with them, it has no direct correlation to our children who dress up in costumes and knock on doors for candy. In fact, some European trick-or-treating traditions began with adult peasants going to the homes of richer noblemen, and offering to pray for the souls of their dead relatives in exchange for a sweet cake known as a "soul cake". Once again we see the recurring theme of Christian practices. So, where is the devil in the Halloween tradition?
Because of the origins of praying for the dead, some cultures believed the dead walked freely on All Hallows Eve. People began dressing up in scary costumes hoping to scare the spirits away and leave them alone. This is also a tradition you will find with people carving scary faces on gourds, and pumpkins, thus creating the Jack-O-Lantern. Over the years costumes have evolved to become scarier and more gruesome. The stories of Edgar Allan Poe and Bram Stoker gave foundation to the creation horror movies. Instead of sitting around the family hearth telling ghost stories of old, people now wait in line to be frightened in haunted houses. Does our American Halloween obsession with scary and evil looking things mean we worship the devil? Does the devil play a part in any of the modern Halloween traditions? Only if you choose to bring him into it! Most people spend their Halloween getting dressed in costumes, having parties, trick-or-treating for candy, or watching a good scary movie with friends without even a single thought spent on the devil. Halloween is time for fun rooted in Christian traditions of praying for the dead... there is no devil in that!

Besides, those of us who grew up in the Detroit Metro Area already know... Devil's Night is the night before Halloween!


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