Friday, October 29, 2010
Everyone is gearing up for Halloween. I have a cute costume for my sweet Smug-Baby and was reading all about Becky’s plans and the costumes for her kids over at Life Out of Focus and I got to thinking about Halloween and how it has changed from when it was first celebrated (at least when we first know it was happening).
Halloween was a pagan holiday and was the day of Autumn Equinox. It was a day to celebrate the harvest and honor those loved ones who had passed on. It was said that on "All Hallows Eve" the line between the living at the dead is very thin and one may be able to communicate with someone who had passed. People would prepare food so their loved ones would have nourishment along their journey back and forth between the worlds. The custom was that everyone dressed up so that the dead wouldn’t be recognized as such and would feel comfortable moving among the living. Then everyone would travel to everyone else’s door eating the prepared food. This would better the chances that one would make contact with a loved one since all the living and the dead were both behaving the same way.
When Christianity came along, and the church was attempting to convert the masses it was common to incorporate some of the parts of the local religious customs and turn them into something Christian. It was a way of helping people assimilate to the new religion. If you think about how most people see God. When you picture what he might look like, most people that I asked, said that God was a man, with a long white beard. Well, think about the images portraying Zeus, the Greek god – man with a long white beard. So All Hallows Eve became All Saints Day, and the Winter Equinox, became Christmas…
It wasn't until much much later, when the church was attempting to gain power over, well over everything, that the pagan customs and rituals were demonized; Halloween was suddenly evil and became associated with witches, ghosts and goblins.
BTW - did you know that the term pagan actually just means country folk? Generally, it was those living outside the towns and villages that resisted the “new” Christian religion and kept their native beliefs, thus the term pagan became associated with non-believers. Interesting…
The same can be said about witches. People that were termed witches were those, mostly women, who kept to the old ways of healing instead of bowing to new, mostly male, doctors. The church leaders, again all male, were against anything they couldn’t control and everything they couldn’t understand. They particularly seemed to hate the fact that woman could give birth, create life, which is something God does. So, there is tons of stuff in our history about the abuse women suffered (and still do suffer) in regards to childbirth (and sex). But that’s a post for another time.
Most of what we know about pre-Christian beliefs has been passed down in stories and fables and by word of mouth, so we can’t be 100% sure of anything. After all, history is written by the winners and Christianity certainly won. However, I find it amazing to look at the customs of the current traditions and see how similar they actually are to the old ways.
Halloween is about dressing up, gathering candy door-to-door, witches and ghosts.
Now, I am a practicing Catholic; God and I are truly tight. But no matter which way you look at it, Christianity has had a long and bloody history and there were times (and still are I guess) when evil people hid behind religion and committed horrible atrocities against others. People tend to fear what they don’t understand and try to destroy what they fear. This does not mean that all Christians are evil or that Christ wasn’t an amazing man who left a huge mark of influence on our world. It just means that we have to do better about following what the man had to say. Jesus told us to love each other, forgive each other and not judge each other. That’s really a tall order, but we have to try!