Many adults also enjoy dressing up, watching horror movies, visiting haunted houses and hosting parties on the spookiest night of the year — Halloween.
According to the latest statistics by the National Retail Federation, dressing up as witches will be the most popular adult costume in 2014, while dressing as princesses will be the most popular child costume. Consumer spending for Halloween this year is expected to reach $7 billion.
With all its popularity, however, few people ever stop to think when, where or how this bewitching celebration originated. To most people Halloween is just a way to have fun and invite children to get free candy. But according to the Encyclopedia of American Folklore, “Halloween is integrally related to the prospect of contact with spiritual forces, many of which threaten or frighten.”
This may explain why the Ouija Board and seances are particularly popular during Halloween season when attempts to make contact with the afterlife are at an all-time high.
The Encyclopedia Americana says, “Elements of the customs connected with Halloween can be traced to a Druid ceremony in pre-Christian times. The Celts had festivals for two major gods — a sun god (called Lug) and a god of the dead, called Samhain (pronounced: ‘Sah-win’), whose festival was held on Nov. 1, the beginning of the Celtic New Year. The festival of the dead was gradually incorporated into Christian ritual.”
According to www.history.com, Halloween “is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints’ Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween.”
Philip Carr-Gomm, wrote in his book, “Elements of the Druids in England,” that “Samhuinn, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 was a time of no time. Time was abolished for the three days of this festival and people did crazy things, men dressed as women and women as men. Children would knock on neighbors’ doors for food and treats in a way that we still find today, in a watered down way, in the custom of trick-or-treating on Halloween.”
He added, “With the coming of Christianity, this festival turned into Halloween, Oct. 31, All Hallows (All Saints Day), Nov. 1 and All Souls Day, Nov. 2. Here we can see most clearly the way in which Christianity built on pagan foundations it found rooted in these (British) isles. Not only does the purpose of the festival match the earlier one, but even the unusual length of the festival is the same.”
According to www.halloween.com., Halloween is describes as “a blending of the celebrations marking the end of the growing season, a heralding of the coming of the winter months and folk traditions that told of the day when the veil between the living and the dead, ever a transparent, gossamer veil at that, would lift and ghosts and ghouls would walk among the living. From those many traditions, coming to us from the Celts, the Roman rituals and even Catholic tradition, we get the stirrings of what would eventually become Halloween.”
The online website added, “The holiday really began to change following the Roman’s domination over most of the Celtic territory. Samhain was then combined with two Roman holidays. Samhain was declared pagan as Christianity spread, and a celebration associated with the devil and all things evil.”
Isaac Bonewits, author of “Bonewit’s Essential Guide to Witchcraft and Wicca” describes Halloween as “An ancient Celtic holy day which many neopagans — especially wiccans, druids and celtic reconstructionists — celebrate as a spiritual beginning of a new year.” He added, “Halloween is a time to lift the veil between many material and spiritual worlds in divination, so as to gain spiritual insight about our past and futures ... to deepen our connection to the gods and goddesses we worship.”
Whether it is viewed as harmless fun, sacred rites or something to avoid is a personal matter. But even unmasked, Halloween remains as spooky as ever. For those who fear God, His holy Word offers food for thought at 2Corinthians 6:14-17: “Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil?
“How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: ‘I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.’” — New Living Translation.
Is Halloween itself a trick or a treat? You decide. Participating in its practices, however, often depends on who you are and who you really want to be.