Happy Hallowmas?

Autumn is often not appreciated when one is a child, because it signaled going back to school. There were a few good things like playing in the falling leaves (if you live in those regions). And, of course, Halloween. What kids don’t like dressing up as superheroes or cartoon characters (or the old standby sheet as a ghost if you’re in a pinch) and collecting candy? The popularity of Halloween waxes and wanes with time and among people, but there’s much history behind it.

Halloween is technically part of Hallowmas, a three day Christian observance consisting of All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween), All Saints’ Day (All Hallows) and All Souls’ Day. Hallowmas is a time to remember all those who have departed this world. What does “hallow” mean? It’s derived from the Old English word halig, which means saint.

Some object to Halloween because some suspect that it drew from the pagan Samhain, but the connections are debated, other than using the same day. One has to ask, though, what does it matter? Christmas trees and Easter bunnies were reappropriated from nonchristian traditions. Crosses were popular in some pagan religions. In other words, we shouldn’t make the genetic fallacy and judge something on what it once was or what others appropriate to it.

Because secular Halloween can be celebrated in a variety of ways by different people, some Christians have ceased recognizing it altogether. That’s fine, but asserting Halloween is simply a pagan or occultic festivity ignores a few centuries of Christian history (and have we all abandoned Christmas as it has turned into an economic event for businesses?). I have also suspected that some groups perceive the Hallowmas days as Roman Catholic and have as such abandoned them. This too is in error, as many Protestant denominations still recognize these observances. In particular, All Saints Day has been fairly universal in large swaths of Christendom.

Fall festivals have replaced Halloween in other circles. These are actually another universal event among peoples of all beliefs, that reach into history. The last big hurrah before winter, a time to stock up on the summer’s harvest. So if Halloween is not celebrated because pagans do, why not apply that to fall fests? There’s nothing wrong with having such events (fall is the best time to have festivals, in my opinion), but don’t do it on false reasoning. I’ve seen some festivals that try to combine everything and come across as, “We want the kids to be able to do Halloween stuff, but we’ll call it something different.” Fall fests and Halloween are entirely two different things.

Perhaps Christians should reclaim Hallowmas. It’s a sad truth that we often avoid talking about those who have died. Out of a fear of sadness we fail to teach our children about those who came before them. Histories and people lost. It doesn’t have to be that way.

In fact, that’s what Halloween is all about.

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Categories: History | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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