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Despite the Modern Myths, Halloween is not rooted in Paganism

 

Like Christmas and Easter, Halloween is said to be a pagan holiday that was appropriated by Christians. As such, Halloween’s roots are linked to debauchery, witchcraft and evil as opposed to anything good or Christian. Therefore, Christians should either not celebrate it at all and give Halloween back to the pagan culture it came from or admit we took a pagan holiday, Christianized it and hide our heads in shame for copying everything we do and believe from paganism.

Sadly, many Christians today believe these lies and give up Christian traditions thinking they really are from paganism. However, I have been studying the claimed links between Christianity and Paganism for years and I have not found any proof of those claims. In fact, the stories we read about how these holidays come from paganism are fairly new and rooted only on biased views, guessing when it comes to scholarship, and, at times, outright lies. All of this is intended to shame Christians and take away their history.

In the case of Halloween, like Christmas and Easter, there is no ancient pagan text (that pre-dates Christianity) describing the observance of Halloween for the dead. In fact, our earliest text showing an observance for the Martyrs dates to about 250 A.D:

Finally, also, take note of their days on which they depart, that we may celebrate their commemoration among the memorials of the martyrs –Cyprian, Epistles XXXV and XXXVI: To the Clergy

Christians began memorializing the dates of the dead, or Christian Martyrs very early on. Over time this developed into observance for All Saints who had passed. However, there were so many, one day was needed to honor those who had passed.  For this reason, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia at New Advent, traces of the Christian observance of All Saints Day can be traced all the way back to the 4th century. While the date of November 1 was not in use at this time, it can be found in Christian texts dating back to the 7th Century when it became officially recognized, and thus All Hallows Eve came about on October 31. 

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia at New Advent, traces of the Christian observance of All Saints Day can be traced all the way back to the 4th century. While the date of November 1 was not in use at this time, it can be found in Christian texts dating to the 7th Century when it became officially recognized, and thus All Hallows Eve eventually came to be recognized on Oct 31st:

Solemnity celebrated on the first of November. It is instituted to honour all the saints, known and unknown, and, according to Urban IV, to supply any deficiencies in the faithful’s celebration of saints’ feasts during the year.

In the early days the Christians were accustomed to solemnize the anniversary of a martyr’s death for Christ at the place of martyrdom. In the fourth century, neighbouring dioceses began to interchange feasts, to transfer relics, to divide them, and to join in a common feast; as is shown by the invitation of St. Basil of Caesarea (379) to the bishops of the province of Pontus. Frequently groups of martyrs suffered on the same day, which naturally led to a joint commemoration. In the persecution of Diocletian the number of martyrs became so great that a separate day could not be assigned to each. But the Church, feeling that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a common day for all. The first trace of this we find in Antioch on the Sunday after Pentecost. We also find mention of a common day in a sermon of St. Ephrem the Syrian (373), and in the 74th homily of St. John Chrysostom (407). At first only martyrs and St. John the Baptist were honoured by a special day. Other saints were added gradually, and increased in number when a regular process of canonization was established; still, as early as 411 there is in the Chaldean Calendar a “Commemoratio Confessorum” for the Friday after Easter. In the West Boniface IV, 13 May, 609, or 610, consecrated the Pantheon in Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs, ordering an anniversary. Gregory III (731-741) consecrated a chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter to all the saints and fixed the anniversary for 1 November. A basilica of the Apostles already existed in Rome, and its dedication was annually remembered on 1 May. Gregory IV (827-844) extended the celebration on 1 November to the entire Church. The vigil seems to have been held as early as the feast itself. The octave was added by Sixtus IV (1471-84). – New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia 1911 Edition

A book by a 14th century Monk named John Mirk, also shows that All Hallows Eve was kept by Christians as early as the 7th century. – Mirk’s festial : a collection of homilies, archive.org

The very word Halloween, means “All Hallows Eve,” itself is even Christian:

“Halloween is commonly thought to have pagan origins, even though it’s etymology is Christian” – Nicholas Rogers, research professor of history at York University, Toronto., Google Books, Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night

Halloween is , quiet literally, the popular derivation of All Hallows Eve, or the Eve of All Saints Day (1 November). Taken together with All Souls Day which falls on 2 November, it is a time assigned in the Christian Calendar for honoring the saints and the newly departed. In past centuries,  it was also the occasion for praying for souls in purgatory. -IBID

What about the links to Samhain? There is none. There is very little known about the celebration of Samhain and what it involved. Most of what we hear about it nowadays comes from speculation. 

“If Samhain imparted to Halloween a supernatural charge and an intrinsic liminality, it did not offer much in the way of actual ritual practices, save in its fire rites. Most of these developed in conjunction with the medieval holy days of All Souls’ and All Saints’ day.” – Nicholas Rogers, research professor of history at York University, Toronto., Google Books, Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night

Plus, the proof that Christians kept All Saints Day very early on “contradicts the widely held view that the November date was chosen to Christianize the festival of Samhain”  – Google Books, Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night

Finally, the word Samhain is not even mentioned in any text until at least the 10th century A.D (see Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain by Ronald Hutton). When is it mentioned in text after this time, details are very vague. 

So to summarize, Christians kept the dates of November 1 and October 31 first. Furthermore, since the word Halloween literally comes from Christianity, it is Christian in origin. 

Finally, lets take a look at the wording used by those who cite paganism as the source of Halloween observances. This wording is always loose and tricky to give you the impression there is some sources that shows Halloween is pagan, while there actually is not. 

Wikipedia on Halloween:

One theory holds that many Halloween traditions were influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain, which are believed to have pagan roots; some go further and suggest that Samhain may have been Christianized as All Hallow’s Day, along with its eve, by the early Church. Other academics believe Halloween began solely as a Christian holiday, being the vigil of All Hallow’s Day. Celebrated in Ireland and Scotland, in the 19th century, Irish and Scottish migrants brought many Halloween customs to North America, and then through American influence, Halloween spread to many other countries by the 21st century. 

Encyclopedia.com:

HALLOWEEN. Halloween (also Hallowe’en) is thought to have derived from a pre-Christian festival known as Samhain (pronounced “Sah-wen”) celebrated among the Celtic peoples.

Scholars know little about the actual practices and beliefs associated with Samhain. Most accounts were not written down until centuries after the conversion of Ireland to Christianity (c. 300 C.E.), and then by Christian monks recording ancient sagas.

Encyclopeida Britannica:

Halloween may have developed partially from the pre-Christian holiday Samhain, which was celebrated in early medieval Ireland around November 1 as the beginning of a new year. However, it seems to have developed mostly from Christian feasts of the dead from later in the Middle Ages, including All Saints’ Day on November 1 and All Souls’ Day on November 2. By the 9th century, October 31 was being celebrated as All Hallows’ Eve, later contracted to Halloween, throughout Western Christendom.

As you can see, the words, ” thought to have”, “are believed”, etc are used,  because there is no scholarly proof that Halloween comes to us from paganism. All these claims are based on speculation to defraud Christianity and delegitimatize our traditions and observances. 

Finally, on Halloween practices such as trick or treating, dressing up, etc, these come to us from Medieval Christian Europe. 

The bottom line is Halloween is a Christian observance. Like Christmas and Easter, it has been demonized by false claims of paganism and appropriation by Christians of pagan observances which cannot be proved,  because it is all based on lies.

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