Halloween is another holiday that started as a pagan ritual. The early church, in response to Christians unwilling to refrain from certain pagan ways, tried to provide Believers with an alternative.
The Pagan Origin of Halloween
The name “Halloween” comes from the All Saints Day celebration of the early Christian church, a day set aside for the solemn remembrance of the martyrs. All Hallows Eve, the evening before All Saints Day began the time of remembrance. “All Hallows Eve” was eventually contracted to “Hallow-e’en,” which became “Halloween.”
As Christianity moved through Europe it collided with entrenched pagan cultures and customs. The church’s strategy was to counter pagan influences and provide a Christian alternative.
The pagan Samhain festival celebrated the final harvest, death, and the onset of winter. It lasted three days—October 31 to November 2. During Samhain many engaged in occult practices such as divination and communication with the dead.
This was a problem for newly converted Christians who looked to the Bible for guidance.
“There shall not be found among you anyone…who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord .”
But, like today, early Christian converts found cultural influences hard to withstand and they participated in many pagan festivals, including Samhain.
Pope Gregory IV provided an alternative by moving the celebration of All Saints Day in the ninth century—he set the date at November 1, right in the middle of Samhain.
The idea was to celebrate the souls of martyrs rather than the dark side of the spiritual world.
Unfortunately, pagan superstitions gradually gave way to “Christianized” superstitions.
Halloween became an American holiday after the working classes from the British Isles immigrated in the late nineteenth century. While early immigrants may have believed the superstitious traditions, it was the mischievous aspects of the holiday that attracted American young people.