The Following Article is so needed in the Church today that it says it all.....I have experienced both sides of this issue and can confirm to you that it is true, so take back this holiday in confidence knowing the facts and tossing out the bull that religion has created!
The History of Halloween -- It's Probably Not What You Think
Last update: 05/30/2008
This article has been carefully researched in an attempt to separate fact from hype and exaggeration. Sources include scholarly works by folklorists, books by Celtic experts, internet sites, and various reference works. I read and talked with pagan sources to find out how they viewed Halloween, but did not rely upon them for information on the origins of Halloween. I am especially indebted to folklorist W.J. Bethancourt III for initially bringing this history to my attention. I have confirmed his research by my own limited study and highly recommend his site as the first place to view for information on Halloween practices (History of Halloween : Myths, Monsters and Devils).
The Celtic Connection
Inaccurate Christian Teaching about Halloween
- Contrary to information published by many Christian organizations, there is no historical or archeological evidence of any Celtic deity of the dead named "Samhain." We know the names of some 350 Celtic deities and Samhain isn't found among them. The Celtic gods of the dead were Gwynn ap Nudd for the British, and Arawn for the Welsh. The Irish did not have a "lord of death" as such. McBain's Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Languagesays that "samhuinn" (the Scots Gaelic spelling) means "summer's end."
It's not just Christian organizations that perpetuate this fallacy -- even the World Book encyclopedia (1990) writes about "Samhain, the Celtic lord of death" (World Book is in discussion with scholars in order to change this in future editions.) This idea is based on a fallacy that seems to have come from Col. Charles Vallency's books in the 1770s before the reliable translations of existing Celtic literary works and before archaeological excavations. (Col. Charles Vallency also tried to prove that the Irish were descended from the inhabitants of Armenia!) Samhain is the name of the holiday. There is no evidence of any god or demon named "Samhain," "Samain," "Sam Hane," or however you want to vary the spelling.
- Contrary to Christian criticism from many sources, Halloween did not originate as a Satanic festival, but was religious in nature (of course, the religion I am referring to is the Celtic faith of the ancient Druids rather than Christianity). This is an important distinction, for Halloween’s association with Satanic worship is a modern phenomenon. The Celts didn't worship the devil (or any god of death) on Halloween.
It is important to distinguish between paganism and Satanism. Pagans are people who believe in more than one god. Some modern day pagans call themselves Wiccans. [For more on Wicca and modern witchcraft see What is Witchcraft?] Pagans are quick to emphasize that they do not worship Satan or the devil. The devil is a Judeo-Christian concept, they say, because one has to believe in a single God to believe in God's opposite: "We do not accept the concept of 'absolute evil,' nor do we worship any entity known as 'Satan' or 'The Devil.'" (Drawing Down the Moon, pp. 103).
Celts were pagans, not Satanists. Of course, from a Christian standpoint both are in error. But to my mind there is a major difference between: (1) pagans (who have not heard the gospel) practicing a holiday containing fairies and elves and (2) Satanists (in rebellion against God) who sacrifice children to the devil. There is no original evidence to indicate that Samhain was any more Satanic than pagan harvest festivals of other religions, like the Romans or the Greeks.
- We have no evidence any where (from tradition, Celtic texts, or archaeology) that virgin princesses or any one else were being offered to the lord of death on Halloween.
There is general agreement that the Celts did in fact practice some form of human sacrifice or human execution, but this seems to have been limited to criminals, prisoners-of-war, or volunteers. (For more information on human sacrifice and the Druids see History of Halloween : Myths, Monsters and Devils.) We have no evidence that Druids practiced human sacrifice on Halloween (let alone sacrificed "virgin princesses").
- The pumpkin is a New World plant that never grew in Europe until modern times, so it couldn't have been used to make jack-o-lanterns by the Druids.
- There's zero evidence that the ancient Druids or their congregants ever dressed in costume or engaged in ritualized begging at harvest time. One Christian tract entitled Trick or Treat says:
The Druids went from house to house asking for a contribution to their demonic worship celebration. If a person didn't give, their trick was to kill him. The people feared the phrase "Trick or Treat."
This charge has been laid at the door step of the Celts so often that it's hard to believe there is no evidence for it, but there is absolutely none. Tad Tuleja (a folklore expert) writes:
Where did costuming at Halloween come from? There is a lot of confusion on this point. But in spite of what you may have read in an encyclopedia or seen on the History Channel, I can find absolutely NO historical evidence of costumed begging among the Druids or as part of the Samhain festival.
We do have records of costumed processions in a much later time (Christian times), but these costumed processions were NOT limited to the Halloween holiday. They appear much more frequently at Christmas. The earliest actual historic practice seems to have been poor folk in masks and costumes going from house to house. They would put on a simple play or musical performance in return for food and drink. This practice is called mumming or guising and has no discernable connection to the Celts.
You may be surprised to learn that your parents or grandparents know nothing about costuming on Halloween. A reader sent me this email:
You mentioned in your article that the American custom came about in the 1930s as a reaction to vandalism. My parents were kids in New York City in those days, and I started looking for more info because of a comment my mom made on Halloween night. It seems that Halloween as we know it did not exist at the time--it was all pranks, as you mentioned (my mom mentioned taking gates off posts and moving outhouses, as you did, and my dad said that in the days of coal fuel there were big cans of ashes that the kids would tip over--a big mess).
The interesting part was that both of them said (Dad was born in 1924 and Mom in 1927) that each year as kids, they did go from door to door begging for food--but it was on Thanksgiving Day, not Halloween! My mom said that rather than "Trick or Treat!" their line at each door was "Anything for the poor? Anything for the poor?" They were given fruit, nuts, a cup of cider, or the occasional coin--that sort of thing.
This email is similar to conversations with my own father and mother (born 1928 and 1930 in western Pennsylvania), who told me that no one dressed in costumes or went door-to-door when they were children. There were lots of pranks on Halloween (some of which make great stories for the grandchildren), but they know nothing of dressing up. So where did costuming come from? That's a big question mark. Folklorist Tad Tuleja says that costume parties are frequently mentioned in the early decades of the 1900s (but nothing about going door-to-door in costume). The costume parties themselves seem to be an attempt to involve children in disciplined "fun" as opposed to destructive "fun."
- The actual phrase "trick or treat" is not Druidic! The earliest known reference in print dates only to 1938 in an article in the Los Angeles Times entitled "Halloween Pranks Plotted by Youngsters of Southland," Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California), October 30, 1938, p. A8: "Trick or treat!" is the Halloween hijacking game hundreds of Southern California youngsters will play tomorrow night as they practice streamlined versions of traditional Allhallows Eve pranks." The phrase is not recorded by the Merriam-Webster Company until 1941. And the term is actually American, not European (Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life, p. 47,86-90)!It's not only the phrase that is American, the practice is too! In America in the late 1800s and early 1900s, there was a custom of playing pranks on Halloween. This custom appears to have come from immigrants from Ireland and Scotland which had a practice called Mischief Night. Favorite pranks included tipping over outhouses and unhinging fence gates (Charles Panati, Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things). The pleasant fiction was that such rambunctiousness was the work of "fairies," "elves," "witches" and "goblins" (Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life, p. 87). That's the "trick" part of Halloween.
Where did the "treat" part of Halloween come from? Jill Pederson Meyer writes:
"By the turn of the century, Halloween had become an ever more destructive way to “let off steam” for crowded and poor urban dwellers. As Stuart Schneider writes in 'Halloween in America' (1995), vandalism that had been limited to tipping outhouses; removing gates, soaping windows and switching shop signs, by the 1920’s had become nasty -- with real destruction of property and cruelty to animals and people. Perhaps not coincidentally, the disguised nighttime terrorism and murders by the Ku Klux Klan reached their apex during this decade. Schneider writes that neighborhood committees and local city clubs such as the Boy Scouts then mobilized to organize safe and fun alternatives to vandalism. School posters of the time call for a “Sane Halloween.” Good children were encouraged to go door to door and receive treats from homes and shop owners, thereby keeping troublemakers away. By the 1930’s, these “beggar’s nights” were enormously popular and being practiced nationwide, with the “trick or treat” greeting widespread from the late 1930s."
The Halloween begging activity known as trick-or-treat comes from America in the 1930s, not the British Isles (for confirmation see A Letter from a MacDonald). The custom was intended to control and displace disruptive pranks.
Halloween and the Middle Ages
The Present Day Celebration of Halloween
...the trick-or-treat and masking customs on 31 October in England and Finland have been introduced from the United States and Canada (Halloween and Other Festivals of Death, p. 162).
"The actual incidence level of satanic-associated crime is very low, and on Halloween consists mostly of petty vandalism and desecration of graveyards and churches; satanic graffiti; raucous rituals including drug and/or alcohol use and sexual promiscuity; and very rarely sexual violence or animal killing. The most well-known documented criminal activity associated with Halloween are the "Devil's Night" fires that were rampant in the Detroit area. These destructive bonfires were not religiously inspired, but were a convenient excuse for out-of-control juveniles to act destructively, often in their own communities.
It is not true that satanists look for "Christian virgins" to rape during Halloween rituals. A young Christian is much more likely to be in danger of a drunk driver, or a party that gets out of hand with drug or alcohol use than of satanic abduction. Occasional anti-social, criminally committed individuals or small groups that also practice self-styled satanism commit crimes on Halloween, but they invariably betray a pattern of sociopathy at other times as well.
It is not true that poisoning or sabotaging of Halloween treats is a significant risk if parents take sensible precautions. Most horror stories are unsubstantiated rumors that quickly cross the country, gaining embellishments, and unnecessarily frightening parents. If parents are careful about restricting their children's treats to ones from people they know and trust, or from a formal program run by a church, community group, or merchant association, they should be fairly safe. In many communities, local hospitals and/or police stations will screen treats free of charge."
How should Christians react to Halloween?
- "Halloween is the most dangerous day of the year -- when Satanists and witches snatch children off the streets and sacrifice them in Satan's name!"
- "We don't worship other gods or honor the dead on Halloween. Halloween is nothing but a secular time of fun and games -- an excuse for the kids to dress up and overload on sugar!"
- "I love to see the children, out in the neighborhood streets with their parents, dressed in funny clothing, having a wonderful time .... and mocking the Devil with laughter."
1. Occult and Satanic Elements:
2. Non-Satanic elements:
3. Alternative Celebrations:
Tract 1:One successful alternative used by a number of churches is a "Faith Festival" in which children dress as their favorite Bible character and gather for a special children's service with puppets, a Christian film, or something special. This offers an ideal opportunity to explain the spiritual significance of Halloween and to encourage the children to remember Hebrews chapter 11, which features great men and women of faith who have gone before us. The "Faith Festival" can be a time to thank God for His many blessings.
Tract 2:As believers, we can take this opportunity to provide a creative alternative to this celebration. In ancient Israel, the majority of Jewish festivals occurred at the same time as pagan festivals. God did not simply tell his people not to engage in pagan festivals, He provided an alternative. During every major pagan festival, the Hebrew people would take part in a God-given alternative, a festival celebrating the same general subject but with a completely different focus.
4. Being Positive Without Fear:
Why Did I Write This Article?
- Answers in Action: What About Halloween?
- Halloween : Myths, Monsters and Devils
- Halloween Safety Tips
- A Bibliography of secular, Christian, and pagan books on Halloween
- The Jack-O'-Lantern Legend
- Pumpkin Evangelism
- A Letter from a MacDonald
- Hallowe'en: a brief discussion of its origins and history by L. S. Campbell
- ExWitch Ministries
- Why do you say Wicca is evil?