How the Church Shaped Halloween

Before I’m burned at the stake, let me explain. 

The roots of Halloween are found in the ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain (pronounced “SAHwin” – obviously phonics is somewhat different in Gaelic) The Samhain festival was celebrated on November 1, but actually started on the evening of October 31. It celebrated the harvest but also welcomed what was thought of as the dark half of the year. The ancient Irish and Scottish believed that the boundary between this earthly world and the afterlife became especially thin on Samhain, enabling communication with the dead. The ancient Gaelic population believed there were many gods and fairies. Samhain, in turn, involved many ritualistic ceremonies enhancing their connection to the spirit world, causing people to leave offerings on their doorsteps or in the fields for the spirits and fairies.

The Celts often celebrated Samhain by wearing animal fur costumes as a disguise against ghosts and spirits. Their celebrations included drunken feasts (yep, they were Irish) where they made lanterns by hollowing out gourds and placed candles within. The people were expected to join the Druid priests who built community bonfires where prayers were offered and cattle sacrifices were made. Each family was expected to bring part of the fire back to their home to relight their home hearth. 

The English name “Halloween” can be traced back to medieval Christianity. “Hallow” comes from the Old English word for holy. At the time, “All Saints’ Day” was called “All Hallows’ Day” and the day before, when an evening mass was held, was “All Hallows’ Eve”, which eventually transitioned to “Halloween” because after all, it was quite a mouthful. It is believed that the mass was initiated to give the evening perspective. Nothing takes your mind off of pagan revelry like taking communion and listening to a homily.

Christian leaders were also responsible for the official date of Halloween. In the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV began the tradition of All Saints Day when he dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to the Saints. However, the date was May 13. One hundred years later, Pope Gregory III changed the date of All Saints Day to November 1 when he dedicated a chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica to the Saints. This date, however, was apparently more of a local or regional change. Finally, in the 9th century, Pope Gregory IV added All Saints Day to the Christian calendar, extending the date to people everywhere. With All Saints Day solidified on November 1st, All Hallows’ Eve was destined for October 31st, which coincidentally fell on the anniversary of Samhain.

With the spread of Christianity, the mystical rituals of earlier Halloweens became more lighthearted. People dressed as the Saints and recited songs to one another. Children went from door to door asking for “soul cakes,” which were biscuit-like treats. Soul cakes actually originated as a part of All Souls’ Day, a third day of celebration on November 2, but overtime morphed into the Halloween night concept we know as trick-or-treating. The tradition of dressing as Saints shifted when young Scottish and Irish pranksters opted to dress up in scary costumes in order to frighten their neighbors. Soul cakes slowly transitioned into candy, much to the delight of children and the manufacturers of chocolate better choice. 

So there you have it, well, sort of.

Even though Halloween can be filled with light hearted fun; and even though its date, name, and practices were heavily influenced by the medieval church; Even though Halloween is a time where children can get tons of chocolate and candy that they’re still eating till way after Christmas much to the dismay of their parents and to the delight of dentists everywhere; even though we can fill the Halloween and Fall season with all of these interesting facts and fun information, it is good to remember that Halloween, or Samhain, is still a day and time festival of the dead celebrated by Druids, Wiccans, Satanists, and Pagans. Even as we take part in simple family friendly festivities, let’s all remember who we are and whose we are and make a difference for God and for good wherever we may be and in whatever we might do.

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

Be safe out there. Be a light. Resist Evil. Make a Difference.

*Image Courtesy of David Menidrey

Lose It App at the 16 Week Mark

For 16 weeks, I’ve been trying my best to find a way to cheat the Lose It App. 

Finally, I’ve figured it out. You cheat by not entering everything you consume into the App.

However, the results are like cheating on an eye exam. I can cheat for the day by not entering everything I eat, but it doesn’t translate to my bathroom scale at the end of the week. I guess the proof is always in the pudding (as long as you enter it into the app).

After 16 weeks, I have begun to embrace the intermittent fasting feature as well. At first it seems silly to think of fasting for a 12 hour period. I mean, what good will that do? I probably come close to that several times a week anyway. However, when I begin the fasting time (which I now do about twice a week) I’ve come to see how often I do reach for food late in the evening or even when I wake up in the middle of the night. This feature helps me keep myself accountable and helps me leave it alone.

So, here’s the moment of truth. After 16 weeks, I’ve lost a total of 28.6 lbs. Not bad. It’s kind of exciting when I realize that I could be at the 30 lb mark in another week or so. 

Thanks for following my Lose It App journey. I plan to make an update every 4 weeks or so. See you at the 20 Week Mark.

*Image courtesy of Drew Beamer

Fighting For Survival

Today, I found myself in the midst of a battle. 

I was minding my own business, trying my best to provide for my family, 

When my adversary felt it was time to hinder my progress. 

At first, I was gentle and friendly, communicating with him that I wanted the best for both of us.

But he didn’t go for it.

Instead, his stubbornness grew.

I tried moving him to the left but he wouldn’t budge.

I tried moving him to the right to no avail. 

Suddenly, a crowd formed around us to watch the struggle.

Embarrassed by the attention, I redoubled my efforts to win the skirmish.

But it didn’t work and my frustration grew with every passing moment.

My fists soon developed minds of their own and they pounded the sides of my opponent.

When I could take it no longer, I grabbed my enemy and raised him over my head.

My strength multiplied as I yanked at his layers and finally ripped him in two. 

I dropped my foe to the ground and held on to the portion I had snatched away.

And then, following my neighbor’s example, I licked my thumb and rubbed it across the plastic bag I held in my hand as I stood in the produce aisle of the grocery store.

To my amazement, it finally opened.

Celebrating my victory, I placed my zucchini inside and continued my battle for food.

I repeated the process in the broccoli section.

I never learned this skill as a child. 

It wasn’t taught at home, at church, or at school, 

Yet, be forewarned good people,

For it is necessary for survival.

*Image courtesy of attentie-attentie.