All Saints Day and Halloween origins: Are your facts straight? This week’s feature for Cultural Tidbits Monday attempts to debunk many myths about both “holidays” and shed some light of truth. I’m a lover not a fighter, so I simply want you guys to learn and have the right information about both!
So we ask ourselves: Is All Saints Day really a “created holiday” by the Church in order to “counter” the “pagan festivities” of Celtic (and even Roman) origin? Are Halloween origins even really Satanic? Which statements will stand!? Keep reading for the answers!
Most folklorists agree that Halloween origins can be traced back to the Roman feast in the name of goddess Pomona or the 9-day (also Roman) Parentalia festival, which honors family ancestors (Wikipedia). However, most modern sources link Halloween to the Celtic Samhain, a festival which marked the end of the harvest every year. It is a 2-day celebration (October 31st & November 1st) and, according to Old Irish literature, it originated in the 10th century (Hutton, Ronald – in book “Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain, 1996).
Unlike popular (and mostly “religious”) belief, Samhain was not traditionally an evil festival, which “sole purpose” was to worship Satan, or any other Gods. It was simply a time to gather food, supplies, decide which animals to kill in order for the herd to survive all in preparation to the cold winter ahead. In fact, “the Gaelic custom of wearing costumes and masks was an attempt to copy the evil spirits or ward them off” from the animals that were being killed (Wiki).
Also, families would walk around the bonfires where the animals were slaughtered as an act of purification. Moreover, “large turnips were hollowed out, carved with faces, placed in windows to ward off evil spirits” (Arnold, Bettina Oct 2001).
While these acts may still be considered to be some type of “idolatry,” they are not even close to how “demonizing,” “devilish” or “horrifying” most churches and religions have described them to be. In reality, all those medieval villagers were trying to do was repel evil spirits, not call them and/or worship them. If neopagans decided to do so, that’s a different story.
As you can see, this debunked myth simply shows that people celebrate secular holidays in different ways, all according to their religion, background, etc. Contemporary example: like certain Americans may celebrate Christmas, but not all believe in the massive consumerism and practice different traditions on the same day. See? Same same but different 😉
All Saints Day origins
All Saints Day is a holiday by which many Christians commemorate all those souls who have attained “beatific vision” in heaven–in other words: immediate, direct vision of God without any “censorship,” as described on Isaiah 6:2 (Bible, NIV version). Later on, All Souls Day holiday was added in order to commemorate those other “faithful souls” that have reached heaven (but do not necessarily have a direct vision of God).
While the holiday has been around since the 7th century, the festival was not celebrated on November 1st until the 9th century (year 835), as established by Louis the Pious (Wikipedia). Typically, celebrations only include visiting the graves of those loved ones that have deceased, pray or recite a rosary, and decorate the cemeteries with many flowers and candles. In Portugal, however, children celebrate the equivalent of Halloween trick-or-treating (Pão-por-Deus) and go door-to-door for pomegranates, nuts, and cakes. According to Wikipedia however, this only occurs in certain parts of Lisbon.
There is much debate about whether All Saints Day was created in order to “counteract” the “pagan” celebrations of Halloween and its Celtic “equivalent.” Yet, as you could see, they are all very different from each other. Moreover, All Saints Day and Halloween origins have quite contrasting causes, almost always the complete opposite of popular belief. But just for fun, let’s answer some questions:
* All Saints Day originated in the 7th century; Samhain is traced back to the 10th century. Thus, All Saints Day was not a holiday “created” by the Church in order to “counter” the “pagan festivities” of Celtic festival and subsequent Halloween.
* Halloween origins are not really Satanic. Some pagan aspects and rituals might have been added and practiced by some throughout the years, but the original Celtic festival of Samhain was simply a way for villagers and farmers to prepare their stock and provisions for the winter…and once again, guard off evil spirits. Also, it was a time to remember the souls of ancestors and others that had passed away (just like All Saints day in a way!). Furthermore, Halloween origins are also linked to Roman feasts of Pomona and Parentalia, which were not even celebrated on October 31st.
My birthday is the day before Halloween so I always loved this holiday best! Thanks for the little history lesson. 🙂