Commentary by Michael VandenBerg
Some rail against the holiday of Halloween, others relish in its revelry and good times.
The child in each of us seems to come out as we, this one time of the year, again enjoy dressing up like children, in costumes, letting a bit of our inner child show though and taking to the streets in the coolness of the autumn night.
I myself am thankful for the holiday (holy day) as it gives an opportunity to bring some of the traditions to light and hopefully point us again to Christ who redeems us. In the eighth century, the church, in converting the Irish and Scotts attempted to replace their Celtic druid holiday Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween) which was a night when those who had died over the past year, made their way to their eternal resting place. It was marked with bonfires and sacrificing fruits, vegetables and cattle. As Christians began to replace their pagan beliefs with Christian beliefs, the day became known as All Saints Day (Nov. 1), and the night before Samhain became All Hallows Eve or Halloween. The sacrifices were replaced with Soul Cakes (much like our donuts) that marked the lives of those who have died over the past year, and beggars would go from door to door asking for soul cakes in exchange for praying for their dearly departed.
At times they would some to the door not with our familiar “Trick or Treat” but with a rhyme: “Soul, soul, an apple or two, if you haven’t an apple, a pear will do, one for Peter, two for Paul, three for the man who made us all.”
Over the millenniums, Christians have brought their faith in Christ to the world. Every time they bring it to a new people, they observe their customs and celebrations and then redefine them with new Christian meaning. The Apostle Paul, went to the Areopagus in Athens, at Mars Hill and gave new meaning to their statue to the unknown god. Christmas originally was a celebration to the Sun God who was returning (winter solstice) and redefined it at a celebration of the coming of the Son of God, Jesus. St. Nicholas of Myra (celebrated December 6), a Christian Saint known for his charity and generous giving, was pronounced Sinter Claus by the Dutch and became Santa Claus when it reached the unfamiliar ears of the American shores.
If you are a fan of Halloween and not a Christian, I hope you will remember the celebration of the lives of those who this past year have gone to their eternal rest. Remember and learn from their lives. If you are not a fan, because of your Christian faith, I hope you will remember to spend the time praying for those who have gone to glory over the past year, remember the poor among us in tangible ways, and remember how Christ gives new meaning to all things in our culture and that not only are we redeemed but so are our customs, culture and celebrations.
Happy Halloween, happy All Saints eve, happy All Saints day and happy harvest.