Monday, October 31, 2011

Word of the Week - Halloween

I've given Halloween a lot of thought since having kids, have debated it and pondered, have looked up its history and tried to decide where I come down on it. Inevitably, I come to the conclusion that, like a Christmas tree or the face of Jesus most often used (stolen from Zeus, if you didn't know, LOL), it has its roots in paganism, yes. But like a Christmas tree or how I envision my Savior, it's about my heart, not any outward appearances.

That said, I still find the history fascinating. This is me, after all. ;-) And since this is me, chances are good that all the times I've looked this up and read about it have turned into a bit of a story in my mind, so if I get something wrong, don't hold it against me, LOL. I'm going on memory here, along with the history of the word itself given by www.etymonline.com. =)

Halloween is a Scottish shortening of "Allhallow-Even." Literally, the Eve of All Hallow's Day. We don't use the word "hallow" much these days, but it means "holy, consecrated." More, it means to make something holy or consecrated. So when we pray "hallowed be thy name," we are saying WE will make it, keep it holy.

Now, in the Celtic calendar, this was the last night of the old year, a witch's night. When the Christians came in, they "hallowed" the day--they deemed that that was the day when they would pay respect to all the saints not otherwise honored on a given day.

Needless to say, this wasn't a seamless transition. Christianity obviously was not embraced overnight, and whether one observed the old Celtic rituals or the new Christian ones was a cause of great strife. Fear. Panic. And sometimes death.

Halloween was serious business. People honestly believed ghosts and ghouls and witches would be on the prowl, hunting their souls--and they may have been right. So they prayed, and they called on the traditions that hadn't quite gotten washed away yet--they tried to scare the evil off by carving faces in gourds, and by dressing up in costumes meant to trick and scare the tricksters. (Or so I've gleaned from various sites . . . don't quote me on this, LOL.) It's a time when we reflect on those who have gone on before us (the actual meaning of these "saints") and so remember the dead.

There are Christians aplenty who refuse to acknowledge Halloween, and I understand why. It is indeed a night when tradition says evil comes out--but it's also a night whose traditions that are still in effect come to us because people want to fight, want to escape that evil. Like any holiday, it's about finding the sacred, the holy, and washing the darkness with light. Making it hallowed.

Whether or not your family goes trick-or-treating, I wish you all a safe day and eve, and pray that the Lord's light will illumine your path.

3 comments:

  1. Interesting stuff. Thanks for the lesson :)

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  2. As an extra:
    Everyone knows that ghosts say “boo,” but when did they first start using that scary word?
    http://www.slate.com/articles/life/explainer/2011/10/why_do_ghosts_say_boo_.html

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  3. Yes, thanks for the lessons. I love to dress up, and I love candy, but stopped celebrating when I found out about all the animal sacrifices on Halloween. I am such an animal lover, that I just can't stomach that—it's so sick. Today is a day of mourning for me. Sorry, if I am a downer. I wish we could have kept it simple and sweet, like when I was in grade school. So many things get badly perverted these days.

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