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Halloween's Dark Roots

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In recent years eye-opening materials have been published about the questionable background of Halloween. Consider these excerpts:

“Halloween-a holiday that mixes generic religious beliefs with ancient folk customs-is supposed to be fun. But for many conservative Christians, it has become a dark and spiritually dangerous celebration … Many are boycotting the bats, witches, goblins and ghouls that symbolize the holiday because they consider such things to be lures in the satanic struggle for human souls …

“Halloween's pagan roots are real, as are those of Christmas and Easter. Santa Claus comes from an ancient woodland spirit honored by pagans, and Easter's non-Christian ancestry is derived from a Germanic fertility goddess, thus the Easter eggs and Easter bunny … Halloween was called samhain in the pagan world-part harvest festival, partly a day to honor the dead” (Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, Oct. 28, 1993, “Conservative Christians Urge Halloween Alternative”).

“The ancient Celtic [Irish, Scottish, Welsh] festival called Samhain is considered by many to be a predecessor of our contemporary Halloween. Samhain was the New Year's Day of the Celts, celebrated on 1 November. It was also a day of the dead, a time when it was believed that the souls of those who had died during the year were allowed access to the land of the dead. It was related to the season: by Samhain, the crops should be harvested and the animals brought in from the distant fields.

“Many traditional beliefs and customs associated with Samhain, most notable that night was the time of the wandering dead, the practice of leaving offerings of food and drink to masked and costumed revelers, and the lighting of bonfires, continued to be practiced on 31 October, known as the Eve of All Saints, the Eve of All Hallows, or Hallow Even. It is the glossing of the name Hallow Even that has given us the name Hallowe'en.

“… The customs associated with Halloween included representations of ghosts and human skeletons-symbols of the dead-and of the devil and other malevolent, evil creatures, such as witches.

“The first week of November is marked in many countries, especially those with a strong Catholic influence, with festivals concerned with death, in a playful but serious way. In Catholic countries we often find some cognate of Halloween associated with All Saints' or All Souls' days.

“… Unlike the American Halloween, in Mexico people build home altars, adorned with religious icons and special breads and other food for the dead. The Day of the Dead incorporates recognition of death as a concept with rituals that remember the deaths of individuals” (Jack Santino, Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life , 1994). GN

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