Friday, 31 October 2014

Taking back the celebration of the Ancestors and tracing the origins of Halloween

The term “Halloween” is a result of Catholic interference with Samhain in the year 609. All Saints Day is a Roman Catholic holiday that honors and remembers all Christian saints both known and unknown. Pope Gregory IV decided to officially move the date of All Saints Day to November 1, the same day as Samhain. All Saints Day is also called “All Hallows” because “hallowed” means sanctified or holy (for those of you who know The Our Father prayer, think of the part “hallowed be thy name.”) The evening before All Hallows was a popular time to celebrate, so the term “All Hallows’ Eve” was used quite a bit. Eventually the term All Hallows’ Eve morphed into Halloween as we know it, and along the way it snatched up and mingled with many of the Samhain traditions that had already been happening for thousands of years.

In the church calendar All Saints Day is followed by All Souls Day which is a solemn holiday that commemorates those that have died, very similar in many respects to the original meanings on commemorating the ancestors that pre date The Christian Halloween Holiday, festivals such as Samhain, Dia de los Muertos or Winternights to name three which are held at or around the same time.

Halloween got taken over by the film and confectionery industry of America in the last few decades and is now often more than not seen as a purely secular commercialized festival, though it was being celebrated as a fun festival as far back as the Victorian period in this country. Much in the same way as Christmas is not celebrated in a religious manner by many people now but often just seen as a festival of merriment.

It's all very well trying to now write the Halloween festival off as being a purely modern American invention but that shows up ignorance about history. Halloween and it's forebears in their original context are in fact some of the oldest festivals celebrated by humans, they weren't about candy or scary films they were a time of remembrance and it was us (The British) who took the original notions of Halloween to America, not vice versa. The USA just took up the holiday and ran with it so to speak.

Most of the Christian festivals are stolen versions of older pagan festivals that were taken over to help with the conversion of the locals. Now that Halloween has been turned into something completely different from it's original meaning some in the Christian church in Britain can't wash their hands of it fast enough.

"Halloween?? oh no that is nothing to do with us, that belongs to those horrible pagans or it is a new thing from the America, no link to our church at all."

Sadly it's not going to wash, Halloween is one of those stolen festivals that has turned around and bitten the church on the bum. The church disproved of Ancestor worship and tried to sanitize and regulate it, only this time the take over didn't go to plan. Wiping out Ancestor worship was hard to achieve in the first place and then in the modern era those pesky Americans took the Halloween holiday under their wing and played about with it and when Hollywood got hold of it, then all bets were off and most of the it's original origins were lost in a feast of horror films.

I like Halloween, I celebrate it as a secular festival, I like the brightness, the colours and it's almost lost but still there if you look hard enough, connections with the ancestors. I like the fun aspects of it and I also have to admit I can't help but be amused by how many Christians squeal and squirm on some of the forums I visit as they try to disassociate themselves from the holiday (does that make me wicked, hehe). Not that I think there is anything wrong in some people not liking this or any other festival, that's a matter of personal choice and what Halloween has become is far removed from it's  original concept. Yet trying to disown any connection at all, does seem to border on the hypocritical when the origins of the name can be traced back. 

Tonight I'm doing a little social tea buffet for some of the oldies in the family and a couple of neighbours who don't like this night and are worried about trick or treaters so they won't be home to be bothered by knocks on the door. I hasten to add they have no evidence to base their fears of trick or treaters on other than scare stories that some newspapers like to peddle at this time of year. I'm sure there are a few places where things may have got out of hand on occasion by the exuberance of youth on this mischief night but I can't remember one report of any such occurrence in my own town, but newspapers do like to spin yarn and tales can become overblown in a kind of Chinese whispers way that end up causing some people unnecessary worries on this night. I quite enjoy seeing the young dressed up in their costumes so I'll be there with sweets to welcome any trick or treat children that turn up on my doorstep tonight. Given today's been officially declared the warmest Halloween on record according to the BBC and that the children are off school I'm expecting quite a few to call.

Tomorrow on the 1st of November I'll start my own personal celebration of Winternights, that will be going back to basics of my faith and my ancestors. Personally I look upon Winternights as being from the 1st of November, as I like to separate it from Halloween, until Remembrance Sunday on the 11th of November.  I'll try to document some of the things I do and what the tide means to me. I'll also have a look at a few other similar festivals that happen at this time and have similar meanings with the ancestors still at the forefront.

Happy Halloween Everyone. 


  1. I left a comment, and then Blogger decided to play up, so I'm not sure whether it's published and awaiting approval, or just not published at all, so...

    "Halloween?? oh no that is nothing to do with us, that belongs to those horrible pagans or it is a new thing from the America, no link to our church at all." <---- Ha! And yes, you are wicked, for being amused by squirming Christians. :p

    Happy Halloween! ♥

  2. I like the idea of celebrating both a secular Halloween and a pagan All Hallow's Eve honouring the ancestors! What a wonderful idea!


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