Friday, October 24, 2014

Some thoughts on Halloween, or All Hallows' Eve

Halloween is coming up on October 31. The name comes from an All Hallows’ Eve, the night before All Hallows’ Day. If you’ve ever read the Lord’s Prayer in the King James Bible, you might remember the line, “Our Father who art in heave, hallowed be your name.” The word “hallow” is just an archaic way of saying “holy,” as in “may your name be considered or esteemed as holy—revered and honored.” Thus, All Hallows’ Day (and the night before) are referring to All Saints’ Day, which is more or less a celebration of Christians from times past who have been recognized as Saints (e.g. Saint Augustine, Saint Jerome, Saint Anthony, etc.).

It’s not a coincidence that the holiday falls around the same time as Samhain, a Celtic pagan harvest holiday. As Christianity spread to new areas, Christians often appropriated special days from other religious groups in order to give them new meaning. Thus, the customs and traditions surrounding Halloween are a mix of both pagan and Christian elements, most of which have lost their original meaning entirely. When you see little children running around in costumes with their parents close behind, you know they aren’t trying to ward off evil spirits (pagan) or mock the devil (Christian). They’re playing make-believe and trying to get candy.

Regardless of whether your allow your kids to participate in Halloween festivities, or if you, like Christians in the past, see something unholy in the holiday and attempt to make an alternative like “Trunk or Treat” or a “Harvest Festival,” there’s much benefit to thinking about the saints[1] throughout history who did and sacrificed much for the Kingdom of God. We ought not forget that we exist today because of their faithfulness long ago, and Halloween, or All Hallows’ Eve, is as good a time as any to think on such things.

[1] The small “s” is on purpose. In Roman Catholic theology there is a major distinction between the Saints and the average Christian who dies; the former are in heaven, whereas the latter have to suffer in Purgatory for a considerable amount of time before gaining admittance. I, along with virtually all other Protestants, reject the doctrine of Purgatory, finding no Scriptural basis for it. Therefore, we consider all believers, past and present, to be saints.

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