Thursday, October 16, 2008

Changes in Halloween

So far in part 1 and part 2 of the Halloween series, we have seen how the holiday has changed from Celtic tradition to Catholic celebration. However, what is the correlation between the Hallow Tide season and today's Halloween? That connection comes from centuries of variations throughout many regions of Europe.

Under the control of the Catholic church, many cultural elements from one region of Europe transferred to other regions. In addition, few pagan practices were completely replaced by the Church and many were simply integrated with "Christian" practices. Such was the case with Halloween. European adherents continued to practice superstitions from their own traditions while venerating the souls of the saints and those who had gone before them.

Many legends became popular in this time period. One was of a man named Jack. Jack was an angry drunkard but a tricky drunkard. One day he tricked the Devil into going up a tree to eat an apple, then quickly carved a cross in the tree trunk so he couldn't get down. He made the Devil promise never to come after him, which the Devil agreed to. However, when Jack died both heaven and hell refused him. Thus, like the spirits of Samhain, he wanders the earth carrying a coal from hell in a carved open turnip, and he is known as Jack of the Lantern (Jack-o'-Lantern).

On All Souls Day, many Europeans also developed the tradition of going to friends houses, asking for cake, and praying for the souls of the relatives of the members of the house as a reward.

As you can see, the Hallow Tide (Oct 31-Nov 2) has developed many traditions from various cultures in various times. To see it as one day with one history is quite an understatement of its development. So with all this to consider, what is a modern Christian to think of the holiday? That will be the purpose of our final installment.

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