With connections to the Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations, Catholic All Saint's Day, the Roman festival of Pomona and the Celtic holiday of Samhain, Halloween has a long and deep enough tradition to be accepted as a fun holiday for believers and unbelievers.
All Saint's Day has been celebrated by Western Catholic church members since at least the 8th century. The ancient Romans celebrated a harvest festival for the goddess Pomona, who was responsible for fruits and harvesting. Samhain was celebrated in England before the Romans took over the island. Samhain, the “summer's end,” was a festival after the flocks were driven in and the harvest was largely finished. This was a time to remember the happy and unhappy times of the year. This day was sacred to the sun and other great powers in the world.
Mexico and several other Spanish-speaking countries at least as far back as Aztec times. The holiday as been a way to commemorate dead parents, children and ancestors. Often observers hoped to make connections with spirits of their dead relatives and wanted to honor those who had come before them. Most observers are celebrating life, happiness, food, family, and fun. Of course this holiday has grown popular in Southern California and is celebrated all throughout the San Gabriel Valley from late October through early November.
So celebrations loosely or closely connected to Halloween have long, deep and honored traditions in the world. People should not be disrespectful of the Halloween traditions, and should decide whether they personally wish to particulate or stand aside.
The Golden Rule should lead parents to want the beliefs of other people's children to be respected as much as their own. Everyone should accept the place of Halloween in our society and make their own choices about their family's observance.
South Pasadena Atheist Meetup
When I first became Christian, I embraced the popular party line that pilloried Halloween for being an evil pagan celebration. So I joined with alternatives similar to JesusWeen, and likewise boycotted. I don’t disparage anyone’s desire to redeem the day, but after years of faith and a bit of education, I now believe we are addressing the issue inappropriately.
Recently, Jimmy Kimmel aired a spoofy commercial about JesusWeen with the children declaring themselves Jesus Weeners. “Yay, no candy, just Bibles!” Is that how we’re perceived? “Don't go to the house with its lights out, Christians live there, they hate everything!” What happened to letting our light so shine that people praise God as a result (Matthew 5:16)? I know the Weeners want to distribute Bibles, but even the ancients would touch their children’s tongues to honey before they shared scripture so they would remember to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:6). If we distribute Bibles, we’d better attach really nice candy bars, lest the good news leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
Besides, the facts show that Halloween is a Christian holiday. It’s the hallowed e’en’ (evening) of All Saints, like Christmas Eve is the night before Christmas. It started when early Christian persecution waned and a feast was declared to memorialize all martyrs (akin to America’s 9/11 remembrance). Eventually recognizing all saints, it was calendared during fall for two reasons: to feed the celebrating throngs, and to fill the void of defunct pagan harvest festivals. How ironic that Christians should now deny our own day, surrender it to paganism, and retreat to our own meaningless harvest festivals.
God created the autumnal colors and the creepy crawlies of earth, and declared them what? He declared them good (Genesis 1:12, 25). So Hollywood horror has joined in, but Halloween was always frightening. It was about Christian genocide, both Jew and Gentile. “You believe in Jesus? Face the lions, torture, crucifixion!” The secular fright component actually highlights Halloween’s spiritual purpose. I’m no fan of the inordinate gore and grossness that tags along, but Christians shouldn’t act as Halloween whiners either.
The Rev. Bryan Griem
Montrose Community Church