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In my opinion, this is a misconception. I wrote about this in the date of Christmas thread a few months back. Christmas was dated in December because it is 9 months after the Annunciation. The Annunciation, according to popular belief in late antiquity occurred on the Spring vernal equinox or the Ides of March. (No relation to the movie or Shakespeare's play). The Spring equinox was considered the day of creation. That is also why both the Annunciation and the Resurrection feasts are commemorated on Baramahat 29 (which in the Julian Calendar was the spring equinox). I don't think it had anything to do with pagan festivities. This maybe the Roman Catholic reason for Christmas' date, not the Orthodox. Regardless, dating a feast to fight off a pagan holiday is a very weak argument. What does it say about the Church? The Church is insecure in its followers that we need to distract them with Church feasts. This is foolish. Do we need to create a holiday to fight off Ramadan and Eid al fitr? Do we need to create a holiday to fight off holloween? Doesn't the Church date all of our holiest days on what the Bible and tradition tells us?
Who's Afraid of Halloween?Original Article can be found at johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/10/whos-afraid-of-halloween.htmlBy Fr. Mark Sietsema *I have a confession to make. And it’s a bad one ….When I was a kid … I used to get dressed up for Halloween! And it was not always something innocent either, like an astronaut or a cowboy. Once I was even a ghost! Worse yet, I would go door-to-door with my brothers and say “Trick or treat!” Idolatrous! Occultic! Satanic! Over time, of course this demon-glorifying activity caught up with me. Look at me now. I dress in black almost every day …Of course you see the problem here. If not, you will very soon start reading about it in the paper again. Many people of churchy persuasions object strenuously to the observance of Halloween. Every year we read letters to the editor that run as follows:“Halloween is the worship of the devil! Halloween comes from heathen roots! Trick or Treat comes from an ancient pagan custom: the Druids would go from house to house seeking a virgin to sacrifice! If you complied and handed over your family’s virgin, they left outside your door a jack-o-lantern with a candle inside … fueled by human fat! If you did not comply, a terrible trick would be played on you! The Catholic Church perpetuated the pagan legends with its Feast of All Saints. If you let your kids celebrate Halloween, you expose them to the possibility of demonic possession!”Well, good Orthodox Christian, what should our Church make of this controversy? Is Halloween something we Christians should shun like the Black Mass? Don’t the facts about Halloween’s origins prove that it is an abomination?No. First of all, none of these “facts” are true. It’s all fiction. We know almost nothing about the culture and practices of the ancient Druids, except what little the Romans had to say. (Mind you, these are the same Romans who also used to say that Christians hold secret orgies where they sacrifice babies and eat them—so let’s be careful about how much credence we give them.) The Romans invaded Britain in 43 B.C. There they found a number of Celtic tribes, which the Roman legions subjugated with relative ease.Now, you need to know that the Romans were not what you would call “culturally curious.” They had little interest in the ways of the conquered Britons. Generally, when there is interaction between conqueror and subject, the conqueror picks up and uses the local names for rivers, hills, and the like. For instance, our state is full of names from the native languages of the Indians: Michigan, Mackinac, Saginaw, Escanaba, Kalamazoo, Washtenaw. However, we find almost no use of the Celtic place names by the Romans. The Romans did not come to Britain for kaffee-klatsches, but for plundering and pillaging. Under the Roman sword the Celtic place-names perished with the Celts, as did any certain knowledge of Celtic or Druidic customs (like what kind of fat they used in their candles).But what if the stories about pagan Halloween were true? Does that prevent us from making a fun day out of the Thirty-First of October? Or do pagan origins damn a thing forever?I would hope that as Orthodox Christians we would know better than to say that. We borrowed an awful lot of useful things from ancient pagan cultures. Our musical system of eight tones? From the pagan Greeks. (Next time you hear a dismissal hymn in the Third Tone, picture a phalanx of Lacedaemonian warriors marching into an attack: they liked Third Tone for their battle hymns.)And our iconography is an obvious adaptation of Egyptian funerary art: the portraits painted on Egyptian coffins look just like the faces in our icons. Christmas, we all know, is a retooling of the Roman celebration of the winter solstice, the Feast of Sol Invictus (the Invincible Sun-god). And many, many Christian churches were built atop pagan shrines and holy places, the most famous example being the conversion of the Parthenon (a temple built in honor of Athena the Virgin Warrior) to a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.Even Protestants with their Puritan impulses and their “just the Bible” mentality have to contend with borrowings from pagan sources in the Scriptures. For example, chapters 22-24 of the Book of Proverbs are almost certainly a translation of the older Egyptian advice guide The Instruction of Amen-em-Opet. And elsewhere in the Bible different titles given to God such as El Elyon “God Most High” and “the one who rides on the clouds like a chariot” (Psalm 104:3) are originally epithets for the pagan storm-god Baal.What’s my point? You can’t judge a custom by its origins. What counts is one’s intention in the here and now. And let’s be honest: modern Halloween for you and me—and even the Wiccans down the street—has nothing to do with virgin sacrifice or black magic. It’s about having fun in a costume and eating things your dentist wouldn’t approve of.“Well!” the anti-Halloween crowd would reply, “Halloween teaches kids that they can get something for nothing!!” But is that so bad? To my ears that sounds awfully close to the Christian idea of grace!“Yes, yes, but we shouldn’t teach our kids that it’s OK to threaten someone with vandalism if they don’t fork over something you want!” Well, let’s look at this from another perspective. Maybe Halloween holds a nice little life lesson: you give a little to get a little. The Book of Proverbs speaks often of the power of gifts. If we all practiced the spirit of Halloween—being prepared always to give small kindnesses to those around us—what a wonderful world we would have.Again, let’s be honest: no one was ever possessed by the devil because he or she dressed up for Halloween or passed out licorice or read a Harry Potter book. Our modern lives have way too many other avenues for temptation to enter, and these things are the real cause of our spiritual problems: pride, gluttony, hatred, materialism, and ignorance.This may be the only pro-Halloween article by a clergyman you read this year. Actually, this piece isn’t so much pro-Halloween as it is anti-superstition and anti-paranoia. American Christianity is too much titillated by thoughts of demons, based on a mythology of evil that has more to do with pagan folklore than the sober statements of Scripture. Such superstition gives all Christians a bad name.That’s why I’m not afraid of Halloween, and I see no problem with Orthodox Christians having fun at costume parties. After all, why would anyone want to learn more about Jesus Christ and his message, if being a Christian means forever being a spoilsport and a killjoy? If you believe in one God, if you trust Him, then accept his protection and don’t live in fear of demonic bogeymen. The real battle with the devil is fought in the heart, not in front of the Harry Potter bookstore.Some people drink too much on New Year’s Eve. Should that stop you and me from enjoying a glass of champagne? Some people eat too much at Thanksgiving. Should that stop us from having our turkey with all the trimmings? Some people spend too much at Christmas. Should that stop us from exchanging gifts?Some people go overboard on the spooky side of Halloween. It’s not too hard to avoid that for your family. Skip the horror movies. Don’t revel in gore. Don’t profane death. Don’t indulge in occult practices … But don’t be paranoid or superstitious either!And have a Happy Halloween!* Fr. Mark Sietsema is the Presiding Priest at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Lansing, MI
What to Do About Halloween?From: Fr Moderator:The question often arises at this time of year about the celebration of Halloween by Catholics. Is it, for instance, "pagan" to dress up and go about as ghosts and goblins? The question often comes up because many modern Christians (mostly non-Catholic ones) believe Halloween has something to do with worshipping the devil and participating in witchcraft. The truth is, the origins of Halloween are rooted deeply in the theology and popular customs of Catholics.It is a revision of actual history to say that our modern celebration of Halloween has origins in Druid customs. It is true that the ancient Celts celebrated a major feast (the Celtic New Year) on October 31st, but the fact is that they celebrated a festival on the last day of almost every month.First of all, the celebration of Halloween, i.e., people dressing up in costumes, going to parties, and "begging" for candy, is not un-Catholic. Halloween falls on October 31st because the Feast of All Saints or "All Hallows" falls on November 1st. The feast in honor of all the Saints used to be celebrated on May 13th, but Pope Gregory III, in 731, moved it to November 1st, the dedication day of All Saints Chapel in St Peter's in Rome. This feast spread throughout the world.In 998, St Odilo, the abbot of the powerful monastery of Cluny in France, added a celebration on November 2nd. This was a day of prayer for the souls of all the faithful departed. Therefore, the Church had a feast of the Saints and those in Purgatory.It was the Irish Catholics who came up with the idea to remember somehow those souls who did not live by the Faith in this life. It became customary for these Irish to bang on pots and pans on All Hallow's Eve to let the damned know that they were not forgotten. In Ireland, then, all the dead came to be remembered. This, however, is still not exactly like our celebration of Halloween. On Halloween we also dress up in costumes.This practice arose in France during the 14th and 15th centuries. During the horrible bubonic plague, the Black Death, Europe lost half of her population. Artists depicted this on walls to remind us of our own mortality. These pictures and representations are known as the "Dance of Death" or "Dance Macabre." These figures were commonly painted on cemetery walls and showed the devil leading a daisy chain of people into the tomb. Sometimes the dance was re-enacted on All Souls' Day as a living tableau, with people dressed up as the dead. But the French dressed up on All Souls, not Halloween, and the Irish, who celebrated Halloween, did not dress up.The two were brought together in the colonies of North America during the 18th century, when Irish and French Catholics began to intermarry. Thus the two celebrations became mingled, and we began dressing up on Halloween. It is, as we can see, a very "American" holiday, but Catholic as well."Trick-or-Treating" is a very odd addition to Halloween. It is the most American aspect of the holiday, and is the (unwilling) contribution of English Catholics.Guy Fawkes Day became a great celebration against Catholics in England. It celebrated the day the plot to blow up Parliament and King James I was discovered. This was on November 5, 1605. Guy Fawkes was the rather reckless man guarding the gunpowder. He was arrested and hanged. During these times of persecution of the Catholic Church, bands of revelers would wear masks and visit Catholics in the night demanding they be given cakes and beer.Guy Fawkes Day arrived in the American colonies with the first English settlers. Old King James had long been forgotten, but "Trick-or-Treating" was too much fun to give up. Eventually, it moved to the Irish/French Catholic masquerade. This practice of "Trick-or-Treating" was simply moved to coincide with the Catholic celebration involving dressing up. Also, among he Druids, candy was used to welcome the good spirits, and masks (jack o'lanterns) were used to scare away the evil spirits.Halloween can still serve the purpose of reminding us about Hell and how to avoid it. Halloween is also a day to prepare us to remember those who have gone before us in Faith, those already in Heaven and those still suffering in Purgatory. The next time someone claims Halloween is a cruel trick to lure our children into devil worship, I suggest you tell them the real origin of Halloween and let them know about its Catholic roots and significance. (By Fr Scott Archer)Catholic parents who are not comfortable with the worst secular aspects of Halloween can avail themselves of alternative activities on that day: family prayer and fasting for the Vigil of All Saints Day, visitations of houses in the garments of non-devilish personae, the reading aloud of stories of the Saints or of seasonal literature such as Edgar Allen Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death" and Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", and the playing of seasonal music such as Saint-Saens' "Danse Macabre", Modest Moussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" and Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Isle of the Dead."A word of caution, however. The Church has always condemned as sins against the First Commandment, and thus cautioned her children to stay far away from: astrology, charms, divination, fortune-telling, magic, the ouija boards, sorcery, spells, witchcraft, and other occult activities, even if they are treated in a trivial or jesting fashion.St Thomas Aquinas says that it is not permitted to Christians even to dabble in such things: "Man has not been entrusted with power over the demons to employ them to whatsoever purpose he will. On the contrary, it is appointed that he should wage war against the demons. Hence, in no way is it lawful for man to make use of the demons' help by compacts -- either tacit or express" (II- II, Q96, Art. 3).We remember too the enjoinder of the Prayer to St Michael concerning Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo [Satan and the other evil spirits who roam in the world for the ruin of souls]. As in all things, parents must be sure to teach their children the proper balance in such matters, erring neither on the side of defect or excess.