Halloween is a unique holiday. Many people wear costumes, get candy, and carve pumpkins, but have no idea why. Today’s blog will answer that.

First, the word “Halloween” is a contraction of the words “All Hallow’s Eve”, the name given to October 31 as the day before All Saints Day, which is November 1. The celebration of All Saints Day is a remembrance by the Roman Catholic Church of Christians who have died. Because of Jesus’ perfect life and sacrificial death, we will see these people again in heaven. This day is also a day to remember other saints without a special day in the church calendar. This celebration dates back to approximately 800 AD.

Notice that nothing in All Hallow’s Eve has anything to do with costumes or candy. That comes from the Druid celebrations before the Roman Catholic Church instituted the celebration of saints who had died.

The Celtic people of the British Isles had different beliefs about October 31.  This was the last day of the year in their calendar.  The daylight was getting shorter since the sun god was losing to the moon god, and the new year was beginning the day after October 31.  Besides the eve of the new year, the god of the dead, Samhain, called the dead back to their homes on this night.  Since no one wanted ghosts in their homes, Druid priests had specific instructions to follow.

First, bonfires were lit far away from homes to attract the spirits to the fires.  The fuel for the fires were wood and the people that the Druids wanted executed–prisoners of war or criminals.  Since the bodies of people would split open in the fires due to the heat, the victims’ intestines and inner organs would be visible.  With these, the Druid priests would predict the future for the coming new year.  But because the ghosts would be attracted to these fires, the priests would wear animal skins to “fool” the spirits.  Finally, as a precaution, food was left outside of people’s homes just in case the spirits came back to their original home.

Later, as people migrated to the United States, those from the British Isles brought their cultural traditions.  Now you know why there is a focus on death on Halloween, with the wearing of costumes and the offering of treats to people who come to your door.  Thank God that Jesus rose from the dead and defeated death for us.  We don’t have to be afraid of anything!

(For more on Halloween, see the History Channel’s “The Haunted History of Halloween.”)

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