I know plenty of people who don’t like Halloween. What’s more, I know people who even think it is aggressively anti-Christian. Is, however, Halloween actually anti-Christian? Or do some people just misuse it that way? Is it really a pagan holiday?
Well, as with most things, the truth is something of a mixed bag.
Is Halloween Based on a Pagan Holiday?
Well, not really. Looking around today you might not think it, but the western world used to actually be a very Christian place. So it stands to reason that big, Christian celebrations would take place around big, Christian Holidays. Take, for example, All Saints Day. Do you know when All Saints Day is? Funny enough, All Saints happens on November 1st — the very next day after Halloween. Also did you know that All Saints Day also goes by another name — “All Hallows”. Hmm. Do you see the similarity between “All Hallows” and “Halloween”? All Hallow’s Eve. Halloween. I think we are onto something here.
In fact, any closeness between Halloween and some obscure, obsolete Celtic pagan holiday are most likely coincidence. Halloween as we know it today finds its roots in a Pope’s proclamation that All Saints Day be celebrated throughout Christendom. And so it has been.
Admittedly, Halloween has evolved well beyond this initial remembrance, into something else entirely. So how did we get things like Trick or Treat, or dressing up?
Halloween is — Admittedly — Peculiar to America
Although we can thank the Catholic Church for giving us Halloween, and Europe for the basis of our traditions, it was in the great melting pot of America that Halloween as we know it began to take form. Dressing up on All Saints Day stems from French tradition. A tradition that mixed, funny enough, with an old Irish tradition of warning away the dead on All Hallow’s Eve. Thanks to the intermarriage of these two Catholic demographics in America, we ended up with the pageantry and the macabre now experienced by everyday Americans every October 31st.
However, there is one more incredible twist in the story that brings the story full circle, back to a very Catholic occurrence.
Guy Fawkes Day
Remember remember the fifth of November? Well, the early English settlers did. Back during the Catholic persecution in England, Catholics would go to one another’s houses and give one another cakes in order to remember the fallen Catholic activist (you could say terrorist) Guy Fawkes. If you didn’t know, Fawkes tried to blow up the Parliament. He was angry at being oppressed. Go figure.
These various Catholic traditions coalesced in America, and lost their uniquely Catholic stigma, soon becoming approachable for non-Catholic Americans. And thus, Halloween as we know it today was born.
Halloween is a Catholic Holiday
So, to answer the question in short — no, Halloween is not evil. However, thanks to cultural influences, it certainly has gotten pretty gruesome. But that doesn’t mean you need to throw the baby out with the bath water. We can celebrate the integrity of our uniquely Catholic-American holiday — perhaps one of the few truly Catholic-American holidays that we have — while avoiding some of the darker sides of modern Neopaganism.
Just dress up, have fun, and don’t do anything witchy.
Originally published at https://www.josephwriteranderson.com on October 27, 2020.