The origin of Halloween - James C. Bell

Did you know the name "Halloween" actually means "Hallowed" or Holy evening?

This is far from what we know and celebrate today as an evening when ghosts and goblins roam our streets, and black cats, witches and jack-o'-lanterns decorate our porches, doors and yards.

"Halloween" got its name because it takes place the day before All Saint's Day, a day designated by the Roman Catholic Church to celebrate the Saints of the Church.

Now, it is a time for parties for both young and old, and a time for "Trick or Treating" among young "Goblins," who want their sacks filled with candy.

There are special games that are played at Halloween, such as bobbing for apples and telling fortunes and ghost stories. Many superstitions and symbols are connected with Halloween. The Irish have a tale about the origin of jack-o"-lanterns. They say that a man named Jack was unable to enter heaven because of his miserliness. He could not enter hell because he had played practical jokes on the devil. So he had to walk the earth with his lantern until Judgment Day.

The Druids, an order of priests in ancient Gaul and Britain, believed that on Halloween, ghosts, spirits, fairies, witches and elves came out to harm people. They thought the cat was sacred and believed that cats had once been human beings, but were changed as a punishment for evil deeds. From these Druidic beliefs came the present day use of witches, ghosts and cats in Halloween festivities.

In early times in the United States, Halloween was a time for playing harmless pranks, but in later times, boys and girls played pranks that were not so harmless. I recall a story of boys moving outhouses back a few feet so that users would step into the toilet hole as they approached the door.

Another prank was to fill a paper sack with fresh cow manure, place it at the front door of a home, set it on fire and ring the door bell and run away. The occupant would come to the door and see the fire and stomp it out, getting the fresh manure all over his feet.

This was supposed to be funny and was played on a mean person in the community. Actually, it was a dangerous stunt that could be harmful. Many communities now stop such actions by holding Halloween parades and parties that provide fun instead of pranks, for children of all ages.(My thanks to the World Book Encyclopedia for much of this information.)

I think Halloween can be great fun for children and teens, as well as adults when observed properly, without harmful pranks. It should be a time of family fun and parties for all to enjoy.

However, I do think Hollywood has put too much emphasis on horror movies and schemes of the devil and evil, when the day should be celebrated as good, clean fun for all.

What happened to bobbing for apples and telling ghost stories? This was always fun for me and my family.

I pray you will have a great Halloween, with lots of fun and games, but don't forget it originally started as a holy evening to celebrate Saints of the Church. Be sure to attend the church of your choice this Sunday and worship the true and living God.