Tomorrow is Halloween, “Trick or Treat!” How this holiday has evolved in my lifetime, and through out history! Halloween is a story of how traditions grow:
- May 13, 609 A. D. Pope Boniface dedicated the Partheon in Rome to honor Christian martyrs.
- Pope Gregory III moved the celebration from May 13 to November 1,
- Meanwhile in 43 A. D. the Roman Empire had conquered Celtic lands which included Ireland, England, parts of France and involved people of the Druid tradition. For 400 years these cultures mixed.
- Celts celebrated Samhain on November 1 by lighting big bonfires to scare away ghosts and the spirits of the dead. The end of summer and the start of the dark, cold time of the year when people died was a “thin space” in time when spirits of the dead could cross over and pester the living. It was during this time that Druid priests could make predictions about the future. Costumes were worn to deceive spirits intent on harming those who hurt them in life. Gifts were given to appease these spirits.
Even as we have included “tacos” into standard English and celebrate Cinco de Mayo and honor Muslim traditions, the Catholic traditions wove together with Celtic traditions to honor our departed, the harvest and the beginning of the cold season. As Europeans migrated to the USA, so did their traditions and have evolved to what we have today.
- In the late 1800s there was a movement in the USA to mold Halloween away from the focus on appeasing the dead to a more communal experience with community activity – parties, parades, movies to watch are all common now as we try to avoid vandalism or Covid today.
- Many other aspects of Halloween have interesting stories of origin – witches on brooms or candy corn.
Halloween touches our deep beliefs about the seen and the unseen world and how they relate. Those beliefs and superstitions are woven together with social traditions and economic practices that permeate our culture. “Christ Alone” is the foundational assurance that it is only through Christ, and not through the saints, that our salvation is determined. Saints, living and dead, are important to our spiritual life and support us but it is through Christ that salvation and eternal life is given. We believe as read in Ephesians 2:8 and 9 that it is a gift given to us not because of works we do to treat departed spirits or improve life for the living, but salvation comes through faith, through relationship to the eternal God through faith as a gift. Our good works spring from that foundation. They do not earn salvation.
Halloween traditions will look a different this year because of Covid but the sales of candy will tempt us dieters, scary movies with entertain the interested, and pumpkins will call forth our creative talents. Some things change and grow with history but the truth of Christ Alone is a rock we can build our life on. Blessings as you celebrate.