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What is the point of Halloween?

(52 Posts)
Tigermoth Fri 12-Oct-01 15:50:44

Christmas - good cheer/ special family time/ winter solstice/ pagan ritual/ christian festival etc

Easter - beginning of spring/pagan ritual/ christian festival etc

November 5th - gunpowder, treason and plot/beginning of autumn/ fireworks etc

Halloween - the witches ghosts and ghouls come out/ And?

Is there any good reason to celebrate Halloween, and if so, how? When I grew up, no child played trick or treat or put on fancy dress. I just cannot get my head round these activities. For the sake of my sons can someone please explain.

Snugs Fri 12-Oct-01 16:15:51

Halloween is also a pagan festival. The name is a shortened version of All Hallows Eve, 1/11 is All Saints Day. Halloween was believed to be the night when the veil between the earthly world and the spirit world was at its thinnest...so anyone planning a seance, 31/10 is the night to do it!

Must admit don't know why it should be a celebration tho' and I come from a very spiritual family (see psychic thread).

Scummymummy Fri 12-Oct-01 17:01:12

Didn't you have Jack O'Lanterns, Tigermoth? We loved carving out the faces and my Mum made pumpkin soup with whiskey in it- v.tasty!

Madmaz Fri 12-Oct-01 20:42:32

Hmm yes trick or treat an American invention gaining popularity in this country over last few years due to films etc. Personally I think it's not a good thing, encourages begging in effect, knocking on strangers doors asking for stuff, frightening old people blah blah (I am such a killjoy). Also many children wandering around unsupervised.
As well as Jack O Lanterns, I remember bob apples, where you bob for apples in a bowl of water. You can tell ghostie stories, if the children are OK with that. Better still have a party with "witchy" food, think if you have "how to cook for toddler" type glossy cook books you will probably find very groovy recipes eg for scary pizzas, cheese straws into broomsticks and what not. Seem to remember seeing this kind of thing in parenting magazines in the past.

Have to say think Halloween just an excuse for a party ! without the kids and with plenty of alcohol who needs the excuse. But it is becoming an excuse for shops to sell overpriced fancy dress stuff as well. Save yourselves for Bonfire night and the council's free firework display.

Snugs Fri 12-Oct-01 21:54:18

Quick tip if your kids do want to go 'trick or treating'. Take 2 different coloured bags for the goodies they collect ... one to fill from people you know (and trust) and one from people you dont - that way you can check the contents quickly and easily for unsuitable items.

Sweetie Sat 13-Oct-01 01:36:01

When I was little we lived in Scotland and used to go out 'guising' at Halloween. This involved dressing up as ghosts etc and going round the neighbours houses. You would sing a song or recite a poem and then be given sweets or biscuits. This was similar to 'trick or treating' and has been going on for many years, although i don't know what the origins are (maybe one of our Scottish correspondents could help?)Anyway it was great fun.

Robinw Sat 13-Oct-01 10:37:08

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Munchkinsugarpie Sat 13-Oct-01 22:31:38

It's probably highly irrelevant, but I love Halloween. I'm a goth at heart I think, and I love the parties and dressing up in long goth dresses and black wigs.... I hired an outfit once for a party with a mate, and we left our broomsticks at the club.... cue lots of 'how did we get home without them' jokes -

I don't take it seriously though, just a great excuse for lots of daft fun..

Jodee Sun 14-Oct-01 13:47:12

As has been said below, Christmas, Easter, Halloween are of Pagan origin. There is a harvest theme to Halloween, from the old Druid and RC festivals in honour of Pamona, goddess of fruit, which came about from Roman occupation of Britain.

The Celts had 2 main feasts; Samhain being at the end of summer (Nov. 1). They believed Samhain was a time when the division between the two worlds became very thin, when hostile supernatural forces were active and ghosts and spirits were free to wander as they wished. One reason why people wear scary masks is to supposedly frighten the evil spirits away that are roaming the earth.

The Christian church tried to eliminate the Druid festivals by introducing the the vigil of Hallowmas on Oct 31 where prayers where offered for souls in purgatory, and the observance of All Saints Day on Nov 1.

Apart from most people seeing it as another excuse for a party, as a practising Christian I find no reason to celebrate it. Dressing kids up in witches/ghosts costumes and playing trick or treat may seem innocent enough, but I feel it is just glossing over something which has a darker side to it.

Inky Mon 15-Oct-01 12:14:56

hear hear Jodee - as a child we never did anything for Halloween anyway, but as a Christian I feel very uncomfortable about it, and am surprised not more Christians are not more aware of, or wary of the sinister side of it. Before anyone poo poos this, on this board someone - Snugs - has mentioned Seances.

If you really are a Christian I don't think you should participate in Halloween 'celebrations' and if you think I'm joking ask your priest/vicar what thier opinion is.

Lil Mon 15-Oct-01 12:24:23

Inky I don't understand why christians should have a problem with halloween. Do christians believe in ghosts and the supernatural world? Not sure there's a mention of them anywhere in the bible. How does the supernatural fit in with christianity? Can you explain?

Ta

Jodee Mon 15-Oct-01 13:37:06

Hi Lil - the Bible teaches that Christians should not attempt to make contact with the dead, in any way whatsoever. The Old Testament has quite a lot about it being forbidden to communicate with the spirits of the dead and any kind of fortune-telling, etc.

Yes Christians do believe in the spirit world, but that they are demonic (fallen angels)who take on the appearance of a departed 'loved one', and therefore are deceptive spirits.

Inky, can you add any more?

Tigermoth Mon 15-Oct-01 16:35:26

I am aware of the christian antipathy towards Halloween, and this makes some sense to me. Then you've got child begging dressed up as trick or treating, the dubious pleasure of being a little closer to the spirit world, and the commercialisation of the whole thing. To cap it all, I don't like the taste of pumpkins.
The fancy dress/ any excuse for a party element is ok by me, though.

The reasons to celebrate Halloween still don't ring true to me, though I now know far more about its origins, so thanks everyone.

Could you somehow combine Halloween with Harvest festival, adding a 'celebrate life on earth and be thankful we are here' element - I don't know..

Robinw Tue 16-Oct-01 13:29:40

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Littlejo Tue 16-Oct-01 13:53:23

Yes, RobinW. I understood that the point of Christianity was paying more attention to the New Testament as this was the word of Christ? Because doesn't Judaism use the Old Testament too? (Please correct me if I'm wrong, anybody - I'm only going by what I was taught in RE lessons and don't want to offend anyone) :)

Bugsy Tue 16-Oct-01 15:34:04

Ok, this is a bit long but a good explanation of all the various things we do at Halloween. Nabbed it off a nifty little website: willstar.com. I think we could get into some serious theological difficulties if we start trying to interpret Halloween through the old and new testament as it is not really connected to either in any way.


The word itself, "Halloween," actually has its origins in the Catholic Church. It comes from a contracted corruption of All Hallows Eve. November 1, "All Hollows Day" (or "All Saints Day"), is a Catholic day of observance in honor of saints. But, in the 5th century BC, in Celtic Ireland, summer officially ended on October 31. The holiday was called Samhain (sow-en), the Celtic New year.

One story says that, on that day, the disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. It was believed to be their only hope for the afterlife. The Celts believed all laws of space and time were suspended during this time, allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the living.

Naturally, the still-living did not want to be possessed. So on the night of October 31, villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes, to make them cold and undesirable. They would then dress up in all manner of ghoulish costumes and noisily paraded around the neighborhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.

Probably a better explanation of why the Celts extinguished their fires was not to discourage spirit possession, but so that all the Celtic tribes could relight their fires from a common source, the Druidic fire that was kept burning in the Middle of Ireland, at Usinach.

Some accounts tell of how the Celts would burn someone at the stake who was thought to have already been possessed, as sort of a lesson to the spirits. Other accounts of Celtic history debunk these stories as myth.

The Romans adopted the Celtic practices as their own. But in the first century AD, they abandoned any practice of sacrificing of humans in favor of burning effigies.

The thrust of the practices also changed over time to become more ritualized. As belief in spirit possession waned, the practice of dressing up like hobgoblins, ghosts, and witches took on a more ceremonial role.

The custom of Halloween was brought to America in the 1840's by Irish immigrants fleeing their country's potato famine. At that time, the favorite pranks in New England included tipping over outhouses and unhinging fence gates.

The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes," made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul's passage to heaven.

The Jack-o-lantern custom probably comes from Irish folklore. As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree's trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree.

According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer.

The Irish used turnips as their "Jack's lanterns" originally. But when the immigrants came to America, they found that pumpkins were far more plentiful than turnips. So the Jack-O-Lantern in America was a hollowed-out pumpkin, lit with an ember.

So, although some pagan groups, cults, and Satanists may have adopted Halloween as their favorite "holiday," the day itself did not grow out of evil practices. It grew out of the rituals of Celts celebrating a new year, and out of Medieval prayer rituals of Europeans.

Littlejo Tue 16-Oct-01 15:47:15

Thanks so much Bugsy! I always thought my Mum was being a cheapskate giving my brother & me turnips instead of pumpkins to hollow out, seems she was actually hanging onto our Celtic roots & avoiding over-Americanism! I'll have to buy her some flowers...(or maybe a turnip:)!!!)

Jodee Tue 16-Oct-01 17:20:43

RobinW/Littlejo, fair point. I agree Christianity is more to do with Jesus & NT but OT cannot be totally disregarded, surely? The coming of Jesus was foretold in it, many times, for one. I am definitely no expert on the bible but there were many references in the gospels to Jesus healing the demon-possessed (nb, don't think we should go into this too much here!) so that sounds to me like He was was well aware of the spirit world, and that it was something to be avoided?

Bugsy, OK Halloween isn't in the Bible! I did mention the Celtic history, and you have made many references to spirit world, Satan. I think there is enough in the history of it to make Christians steer clear, let alone the association of Wiccans etc. 'adopting' the day for their own practices.

I took my ds to Tumbletots today and during the session they have two, 5 minute singalong times. The whole theme was Halloween, singing about ghosts and witches - to under 2s!!

Tigermoth, I remember having jack o lanterns as a kid, and my Mum would carve a happy, smiley face instead of a goblin type and that was the only association with Halloween we had.

I do hope I'm not sounding like a sunday school teacher here!

Robinw Wed 17-Oct-01 06:50:10

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Lil Wed 17-Oct-01 10:02:03

RobinW, doesn't that mean the ten commandments don't apply to Christians then??? I think its fair enough to say that Jesus was a prophet who wanted to put us back on the straight and narrow, (whether you believe he was God's son is obviously a personal view) but I can't believe all culture and morals that were applicable before him were supposed to be suddenly dropped!

Inky Wed 17-Oct-01 12:25:43

I'm definitely no expert, but I'd like to add my twopenneth worth here re: Halloween & Christianity.

Of course, Halloween is not in the bible, but that doesn't mean it's OK. Here's an extract from the OT. (Incidently how can you be a Christian & disregard the OT?)

"No one shall be found among you who makes a son or daughter pass through fire, or who practices devination, .... or who is a sorcerer, or one who casts spells, or who consults ghosts or spirits, or who seeks oracles from the dead. For whoever does these things is abhorrent to the Lord". Deuteronomy 18:9

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this:-

"All forms of devination are to be rejected:recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to 'unveil' the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums, all conceal a desire for power over time, history and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honour, respect and loving fear that we owe to God alone."

There is a good chapter on the occult, witchcraft and satanism from a christian perspective in the excellent book 'I saw satan fall - the ways of spiritual warfare' by Benedict Heron. In it he says "Of course, reading your horoscope in the newspaper or reading tea leaves is vastly different from being involved in satanism - just as pinching an apple from a shop is very different from being involved in bank raids. However, all involvement in the occult is wrong, just as all stealing is wrong.".


I have to say RobinW that your old teacher might have been lovely, but that doesn't make everything she said all right. according to you she said "if the Old Testament was all right God wouldn't have needed to send Jesus, would he?" The problem was not that the OT (God's word) is/was wrong but that people ignored God's word and chose to give in to sin instead. God sent Jesus as another chance for sinful people to gain redemption. Frankly, I would be horrified if a Sunday School teacher had such a poor opinion & knowledge of the bible & was instructing my child. You also say: "Jesus didn't avoid the spirit world, did he. As you say he healed some people believed to be possessed and brought Lazarus back to life." No, Jesus didn't avoid the spirit world, he fought against Satan. Being involved in Spritual warfare is slightly different from dressing up small children as witches, ghosts etc and 'celbrating' Halloween.

I think it's a mistake to dabble with unknown forces and laugh it off as unimportant. Anyone seen The Usual Suspects & remember the line "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn't exist"

Littlejo Wed 17-Oct-01 13:05:04

Fair enuff, Inky. I wasn't saying Christians should disregard the OT, only that going solely on bits of it could be a little misleading. The best example I think is the OT's stance on revenge -'Eye for an eye, etc.' - but Jesus went on to say that though the Bible says eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, he says to turn the other cheek. I get the impression he was around to 'update' the Bible a bit from outdated things -like revenge & also stoning adulteresses (sp?) as in 'he who is without sin cast the first stone'.

Totally agree about messing with stuff you don't understand.

And The Usual Suspects - outstanding film, and a great quote - point well put.

Scummymummy Wed 17-Oct-01 13:19:14

I don't want to be disrespectful of people's religious views but I do think it's a bit of an exaggeration to categorize most Halloween celebrations as "dabbling in the occult"! Ok there may be some wierdos out there doing seances but I think it's mostly little kids carving pumpkins & turnips, bobbing for apples and getting dressed up- all of which seem harmless enough to me.

Croppy Wed 17-Oct-01 13:49:22

I have always utterly loathed Halloween and have found the explanations and so on provided here very interesting - thanks Inky and Jodee!

Robinw Wed 17-Oct-01 15:50:34

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