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How Did a Pagan Holiday Become a 'Christian' Celebration?

Originally Halloween was a pagan festival oriented around fire, the dead and the powers of darkness. Most everyone knows that Halloween takes place on Oct. 31. Far fewer, however, understand the connection between Halloween and the next day on the calendar, the festival of All Hallows' or All Saints' Day, celebrated by some churches and denominations Nov. 1.

One author surmises that All Saints' Day was established to commemorate the saints and martyrs of the Roman Catholic Church and was first introduced in the seventh century (Man, Myth, and Magic, Vol. 1, 1983, p. 109). Oddly enough, history shows that Halloween—this ancient, thoroughly pagan holiday with its trappings of death and demonism—is inseparably tied to All Saints' Day.

Pagan festivals from time immemorial have had a curious way of worming their way into Christianity over the centuries. The Encyclopedia of Religion explains that "the British church attempted to divert the interest in pagan customs by adding a Christian celebration to the calendar on the same date as the Samhain [the ancient Celtic name for the festival that eventually would be renamed Halloween].

"The Christian festival, the Feast of All Saints, commemorates the known and unknown saints of the Christian religion just as the Samhain had acknowledged and paid tribute to the Celtic deities" (1987, Vol. 6, p. 177).

How did this strange turn of events come about—the Catholic Church transforming an ancient pagan festival into one to supposedly honor deceased saints?

The 1913 edition of The Catholic Encyclopedia records this about All Saints' Day: "In the early days the Christians were accustomed to solemnize the anniversary of a martyr's death for Christ at the place of martyrdom. In the fourth century, neighboring dioceses began to interchange feasts, to transfer relics, to divide them, and to join in a common feast. Frequently groups of martyrs suffered on the same day, which naturally led to a joint commemoration.

Read the full article at www.ucg.org/mans-holidays/how-did-pagan-holiday-become-christian-celebration


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