Hallowe'en in links
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Date: 26 October

 

 

'Many Christians are uncomfortable with celebrating Hallowe'en and believe that it celebrates evil.'

Hallowe'en beckons once again. Small children don rubber masks sold by eager retailers. But what's it all about, and why should you want to know? By Andrew Chapman

First, the facts. The name Hallowe'en, with or without apostrophe, is a contraction of All Hallows Eve.

Hallows derives from the Old English word halig, meaning holy - thus All Hallows Day itself is in fact All Saints Day.

All Saints Day was originally celebrated on May 13th, a celebration in memory of all Christian martyrs.

This is still celebrated by Rome, but Pope Gregory IV in 835AD created a new All Saints Day on November 1st. The Catholic church also celebrates All Souls Day on November 2nd.

Why November 1st? For the ancient Celts, this date marked their new year, as well as the onset of winter.

Samhain

On the night before, they celebrated the festival of Samhain, Lord of the Dead - for which people would wear masks and light bonfires to drive away the spirits of the dead, which on that night were believed to mingle with those of the living. Even 'trick or treat' is believed to date this far back.

The Celtic festival eventually merged with two Roman ones, one in celebration of harvest and the goddess Pomona - and believed to be the origin of 'apple-bobbing'.

Other Halloween traditions, such as carving pumpkins (originally turnips) and making a Jack o'Lantern come from Ireland.

Thus what we know as Halloween, although its name derives from a Christian festival, has a long tradition uniting various Western cultures.

Many Christians are uncomfortable with celebrating Halloween and believe that it celebrates evil. Some have attempted to reappropriate October 31st as Reformation Day - it was on this day, in 1517, that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to a door in Wittenberg, Germany.

Others have attempted to find a compromise and approach Halloween from a Christian perspective.