In a response to a True Believer™ by the name of “Revelator” who asked why I seem to hate Christians I pointed out that it wasn’t that I hated Christians at all, but rather I’m annoyed by those Christians who make a pest of themselves by trying to force their superstitions onto everyone else around them. A perfect example of this comes in the form of this news item about some Bible Belt Christians who have their panties all in a bunch over the fact that Halloween falls on a Sunday this year.
“It’s a day for the good Lord, not for the devil,” said Barbara Braswell, who plans to send her 4-year-old granddaughter Maliyah out trick-or-treating in a princess costume on Saturday instead.
“You just don’t do it on Sunday,” said Sandra Hulsey of Greenville, Ga. “That’s Christ’s day. You go to church on Sunday, you don’t go out and celebrate the devil. That’ll confuse a child.”
What’s really sad about this whole thing is that these people are protesting against a holiday that their own religion is largely responsible for having created in the first place. Around SEB we’re pretty used to seeing some Christians demonstrate a stunning ignorance of all manner of subjects ranging from American history to the scientific theory of Evolution, but you’d think that they’d at least have some knowledge of their own religion’s history and the holidays it helped to establish. It turns out they’re just as ignorant about that as they are most other things.
Like most of the major “Christian holidays,” Halloween is an old Pagan holy day that the Christian church attempted to usurp for its own purposes except that this one kind of backfired on them. Originally known as Samhain Eve it was one of the principle festivals on the Celtic calendar and had nothing to do with Devil worship as that is a purely Christian concept. Samhain was a time for contemplation, a celebration of the final harvest of the season, and the one day of the year when the barriers between worlds was lowered allowing the spirits of both the dead and the unborn to walk among the living. When the Christians finally decided that the best way to subvert the popular Pagan festivals would be to modify them to celebrate Christian concepts and religious figures sometime between 400 and 1000 A.D. the best they could come up with for Samhain was to turn it into All Saints Day a day of celebration of all the saints and martyrs, known or unknown, making it largely a holiday in commemoration of people who died in some horrible fashion for the sake of their faith. It’s interesting to note that Samhain seems to have a much more positive take on the issue of dead people than All Saints Day.
The modern holiday we call Halloween is a weird amalgamation of customs from the original Samhain merged with customs from All Saints Day as well as the rituals of other cultures that had similar day of the dead holidays such as the Roman’s Lemuria. Trick-or-treating, for example, is said to have gotten its start as the European custom called “souling” that was part of All Souls Day which occurred the day after All Saints Day on November 2nd. Christians would walk from village to village begging for “soul cakes” with the beggars promising to pray for deceased family members in return for food. This was encouraged by the church as a way to subvert the practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits on Samhain.
Today the holiday holds little religious significance for most folks who participate with the exceptions of the Neo-Pagans and Wiccans who keep the old traditions alive and the handfuls of Christians (mainly Catholics) who still celebrate All Saints Day. The claims of the Fundamentalists that it’s a Satanic holiday are clearly not borne out by a look at the history of the holiday and they have no one to blame outside of their own religion for it’s continued popularity today. It stands as yet another Christian attempt to impose their beliefs and superstitions on others that came back to bite them in the ass in the long run.