A. Attention Getter – “A man must consider what a rich realm he abdicates when he becomes a conformist.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson B. Introduce Topic – To simply do something because it’s what everyone else is doing without knowing the reasons why they’re doing it, is conformity. You might understand the term conformity when used as “sheeple” in the political world. Those who go with the growd, just because. Halloween and Religion seem like two natural opposites – good and evil brought to life. C. Establish Credibility – In most things I’m a non-conformist. I trust no one and nothing without questioning and understading everything. I question everything even if it seems simple on the surface. Far too often I have found most things are not what they seem, and Religion and Holidays are no exception.
D. Preview Central Idea – The term Holiday was originally used to reference Holy Days that were celebrated and remembered with some form of ceremony or worship. Halloween, originally a day of rememberence for the recently deceased and their spirits that returned to earth on the eve of the new year, has become something celebrated by just about everyone, in many cultures, and across many religions, but most notibly in the US where it has become yet another commercialized event, causing people to spend money they might not otherwise spend, to eat food that offer no nutrition at all, and in excess at that, and to go against the number one safety measure your parents drilled into your heads – NEVER TAKE CANDY FROM STRANGERS!!
This has become so acceptible in modern religious practices that it’s been given a new name “Trick-Or-Trunk”. This is an event sponsored by religious elders, held on church grounds, outside in the parking lot, out of the trunks of cars and more often than not, the costumes that are worn do not promote religious purity and goodness, but the very evil the religion is supposed to protect them from. Transition to main points – In order to fully understand how this seemingly innocent day of celebration, creativity and self expression is a contradiction, we need to look at several things.
II. Body – summary of main points / personal view
Transition to origins
When did this holiday begin and why? Was it of pagan origins or is there something more behind Halloween’s history? How should Religions view this day in general? To understand these questions further, we need to go back to the roots of Halloween.
1. Celtic Origins
a. Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer, the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. b. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. c. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future.
For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter. d. To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.
2. Halloween & Religion
a. By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of “bobbing” for apples that is practiced today. b. Around AD 600, Pope Boniface IV created All Saints’ Day, and Pope Gregory III later moved this holiday to November 1 in an effort to give a Christian alternative to this pagan celebration.5 (answersingenesis.org) Christians who did not want to celebrate pagan festivals celebrated something of positive spiritual value—in this case honoring the saints and martyrs. With the overwhelming expansion of Christianity in Europe, All Saint’s Day became the dominant holiday.6 (answersingenesis.org)
On May 13, 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church. Pope Gregory III (731–741) later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs, and moved the observance from May 13 to November 1. By the 9th century the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted the older Celtic rites. c. In 1000 A.D., the church would make November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. It is widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. All Souls Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. The All Saints Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.
A couple hundred years later, the Roman Church made November 2 All Souls Day to honor the dead. This may well have been influenced by the continued persistence of the day of the dead by the ancient Irish, Scots, and others in Europe. Standing against this, many Protestant Christians celebrate October 31 as Reformation Day in honor of reformers such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and others who spearheaded the Reformation in the 1500s. (answersingenesis.org) In fact, the current name of “Halloween” originates from the day before All Saint’s Day, which was called “All Hallow Evening”; this name was shortened to “All Hallow’s Eve” or “All Hallow’s Even.” The name changed over time and became “Hallowe’en.” (answersingenesis.org) d. It should be obvious from a Christian perspective that many modern practices of Halloween and days of the dead have evil intent (e.g., 1 Corinthians 10:20).
There has been considerable paganism that has been associated with Halloween over the years. Even evil acts such as vandalism, fires, destructive pranks, pretending people are something they are not by dressing up (and particularly by the glorification of sensuality, death, and demons) are in strong opposition to the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:19–23). So, a word of caution must be given to Evangelicals who promote some of the questionable modern practices of Halloween. If anything, an alternative in opposition to Halloween should be offered by Christians. Psalm 24:1 points out that everything belongs to the Lord. Therefore, there is no reason to let Satan have Halloween. It is not his day in the first place! (answersingenesis.org)
3. Trick-or Treating
a. The American Halloween tradition of “trick-or-treating” probably dates back to the early All Souls’ Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives. b. The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which was referred to as “going a-souling” was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food, and money. c. The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots.
On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. On Halloween, to keep ghosts away from their houses, people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter.
Transition to lost traditions
B. Lost traditions/beliefs – Many of these obsolete rituals focused on the future instead of the past and the living instead of the dead. In particular, many had to do with helping young women identify their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday—with luck, by next Halloween—be married. 1. In 18th-century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it. 2. In Scotland, fortune-tellers recommended that an eligible young woman name a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace. The nut that burned to ashes rather than popping or exploding, the story went, represented the girl’s future husband. (In some versions of this legend, confusingly, the opposite was true: The nut that burned away symbolized a love that would not last.) 3. Another tale had it that if a young woman ate a sugary concoction made out of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg before bed on Halloween night she would dream about her future husband.
4. According to some accounts, the Halloween supper has featured a roast fowl or even meat, but as the day before a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic Church, Halloween has traditionally been a day of abstinence from meat. The dishes most associated with Halloween in Ireland—colcannon, champ, and boxty—are all made from root vegetables and earthy harvests such as potatoes and cabbage. Champ is mashed potatoes, frequently with leeks, and served with a pool of melted butter in the top. Colcannon is potatoes and cabbage. Boxty is mashed potatoes mixed with grated raw potatoes, onion, and cabbage, which are then boiled, cut into portions and fried. (encyclopedia.com) 5. These traditional foods are emblematic of Halloween for many in Ireland. Sometimes, portions were left out for the fairies. In an article published in 1958, K. M. Harris quotes a man who recalls his mother putting salt on the head of each child to prevent them from being taken away by the “wee people” on Halloween. He also recounts her placing a thimble-full of salt on each plate.
If the salt fell down that person would die in the next twelve months. These beliefs indicate the continued association of food with the supernatural, and perhaps echo the “old” new year’s day of Samhain in the idea that what happens on this night affects the next twelve months. (encyclopedia.com) C. Cultural Similarities (all from answersingenesis.org) – Although many affirm that Samhain was the origin of modern-day Halloween, it is significant to note how many cultures throughout the world have celebrated a “day of the dead” (often with sacrifices), occurring at the end of summer and fall. There seem to be too many parallels to call these similar celebrations a coincidence. 1. For example, in the Americas there is the Mexican Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos) that goes back to the ancient festival of the dead celebrated by Aztecs and the more-ancient Olmec.
This was likely where the Guatemalans got their Day of the Dead. 2. Brazilians also celebrate Finados (Day of the Dead). Bolivia has the Day of the Skulls (Día de los Natitas).7 3. In Asia, there are similar festivals. For example, the Chinese celebrated the Ghost Festival, which was a day to pay homage to dead ancestors. The Japanese celebrated something similar called O-bon or merely Bon. Even Vietnam has a variant of the Ghost Festival called Tet Trung Nguyen. In Korea, there is Chuseok or Hankawi, in which deceased ancestors are ritualized.
In Nepal, there is the cow pilgrimage called Gia Jatra to honor the recently deceased. In the Philippines, there is the Day of the Dead (Araw ng mga Patay), where tombs are cleaned and repainted. The list goes on and on (see reference 5). 4. The annual Jewish holiday of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) is celebrated in the fall, usually September or October.8 But it is distinctly different in purpose. It is not in honor of the dead. Rather, it deals with soul searching, repentance, and is a time of great sacrifice for the sins of the people (Leviticus 23:27–28). So, there is some cross over, but God instituted this date.
Transition to Halloween in America
D. Halloween in America
1. Celebration of Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England because of the rigid Protestant belief systems there. Halloween was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies. As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups as well as the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included “play parties,” public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, dance and sing. Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds. By the middle of the nineteenth century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country.
2. In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland’s potato famine of 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition. Young women believed that on Halloween they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings or mirrors.
3. In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything “frightening” or “grotesque” out of Halloween celebrations. Because of these efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.
4. By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide parties as the featured entertainment. Despite the best efforts of many schools and communities, vandalism began to plague Halloween celebrations in many communities during this time. By the 1950s, town leaders had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween had evolved into a holiday directed mainly at the young. Due to the high numbers of young children during the fifties baby boom, parties moved from town civic centers into the classroom or home, where they could be more easily accommodated.
Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats. A new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country’s second largest commercial holiday.
Summarize main points, purpose and view.
“History of Halloween.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. Hodge, Bodie. “Halloween History and the Bible.” Answers in Genesis. Network Solutions, LLC, 29 Oct. 2013. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. Image 1: D4doddy, Digimaree. Samhain Bonfire. Digital image. Ancient Samhain Ritual. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. . Image 2: Ritual De Samhain (NOCHE DE DIFUNTOS CELTA). Digital image. Cosas De Meiga (Libreria Escuela Tarot). Meiga, 26 Oct. 2012. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. .
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