All Hallows' Eve

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Sunday October 31, 2021 All Day
Annually on October 31

All Hallows' Eve

"Remembering saints [the departed faithful] and martyrs and dedicating a specific day to them each year [originally on May 13] has been a Christian tradition since the 4th century AD.” [1] However, it was in 615 AD that Pope Boniface IV formally established the date as the Feast of All Martyrs “commemorating the dedication of the Pantheon, an ancient Roman temple, into a Christian church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the martyrs.” [2] Pantheon means “temple of all the gods.” The transformation of the Pantheon into a Christian church, therefore, was a huge triumph of Christianity over paganism.

“By 741, the feast included not only martyrs, but all the saints in heaven… In 844, Pope Gregory IV transferred the feast to November 1st, timing it around the harvests to be able to provide food for the pilgrims,” and the name of the feast day was changed to the Feast of All Saints (All Saints Day). [3]

Subsequently, October 31 was made All Hallows Eve, “the night before the vigil for the holy–hallowed–ones.” [4] “In England, saints or holy people are called ‘hallowed’, hence the name ‘All Hallows’ Day’ [All Saints Day]. The evening, or ‘e'en’ before the feast became popularly known as ‘All Hallows' Eve’ or even shorter,’Hallowe'en.’” [5]

“In the aftermath of the Reformation, however, some fervent protestant groups (like the puritans) regarded holy days with Catholic roots suspiciously and condemned them as ‘popish invention’. Even Christmas was cancelled. Tommy Kidd [an American historian] has written that the only ‘holiday’ New England puritans seemed able to agree on was November 5, the Gunpowder Plot. As he writes, ‘In New England, where almanac makers and many of their readers felt uncomfortable with any holidays associated with the Anglican church calendar, November 5 seemed a holiday that nearly everyone could enjoy, for it signified crushing defeats for Catholicism.’” [6]

“A holy day like Halloween… didn’t have a chance with radical reformers. It was just too Catholic. This is precisely what [historian] Ronald Hutton argues. As he writes, ‘To describe [Halloween] as fundamentally unchristian is therefore either ill-informed or disingenuous. Such an attitude could be most sympathetically portrayed as a logical development of radical Protestant hostility to the holy days of All Saints and All Souls.’ Ironically, Hutton continues, it is because of the agenda of evangelical Protestants to ‘eradicate’ papal traditions that holidays like Halloween now appear ‘divorced from Christianity.’ ‘[T]he Protestants ‘left nothing but a vague sense of Halloween as a time with creepy associations.’ In other words, it was Protestant fear of Catholicism that made Halloween appear less Christian. Isn’t that interesting?” [7]

Unfortunately, then  "James Frazer’s The Golden Bough (a classic social anthropology study from 1890 that explores the parallels between Christianity and ancient mythology)... anachronistically projected medieval [Christian] traditions onto the past," creating a wide-spread myth that All Hallow’s Eve was a pagan holiday, when in fact it is a "celebration of Christian triumph over paganism." [8]

Frazer’s arguments - universally dismissed today by anthropologists - “had a clear agenda: to undermine religious belief... Frazer frequently made statements to the effect that anthropology was a reformer’s science–that the material he was presenting should prompt people to seek actively to discard those parts of their thinking and culture that he had exposed as arising from faulty logic.” [9] In other words, Frazer hoped that reading The Golden Bough would “inspire Christians to abandon faith and replace it with science.” [10]

Like the Pantheon, Christianity triumphed over Frazer’s The Golden Bough, though the myths put forth in the book continue to circulate among anti-Catholic segments of Christendom.

Today, many Christians around the world celebrate All Hallows’ Eve with a special service. It is a time to remember our loved ones who have passed on, to reflect on what the Scriptures teach us about the spiritual realm, and to prepare for the Feast of All Saints. 



Citations:

[1] The BBC. (2011, October 20). Religions - Christianity: All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. Retrieved October 26, 2020, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/holydays/allsaints_1.shtml

[2] Catholic Culture. (n.d.). Liturgical Year : October : History of All Hallows' Eve. Retrieved October 26, 2020, from https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/overviews/months/10_2.cfm

[3] Ibid. 2

[4] Barr, B. (2018, October 31). Why Evangelical Christians Are Afraid of Halloween. Retrieved October 26, 2020, from https://www.patheos.com/blogs/anxiousbench/2018/10/why-christians-are-afraid-of-halloween/

[5] Catholic Culture. (n.d.). Liturgical Year : October : History of All Hallows' Eve. Retrieved October 26, 2020, from https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/overviews/months/10_2.cfm

[6] Barr, B. (2018, October 31). Why Evangelical Christians Are Afraid of Halloween. Retrieved October 26, 2020, from https://www.patheos.com/blogs/anxiousbench/2018/10/why-christians-are-afraid-of-halloween/

[7] Ibid. 6

[8] Barr, B. (2015, November 18). Halloween--More Christian than Pagan... Retrieved October 26, 2020, from https://www.patheos.com/blogs/anxiousbench/2015/10/halloween-more-christian-than-pagan/

[9] Barr, B. (2016, October 07). The Modern Roots of Pagan Halloween. Retrieved October 26, 2020, from https://www.patheos.com/blogs/anxiousbench/2016/10/why-we-think-halloween-is-more-pagan-than-christian/

[10] Ibid. 9

 


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