Halloween History

While you’re making your plans for Halloween this year, you might be interested in knowing some of its history. It is the merged holiday of the Catholic All Saints Day and the Celtic Pagan Samhain. It was not uncommon for the early Christian church to select dates for their holidays with ones already being celebrated by the local people.

Now, before you start make judgments about the word “pagan,” here is the definition: “a person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions.” Its origins come from “paganus,” which means rustic, or country district. For the most part, Christianity was first taught in the cities. Then its influence spread outward into the country.

The Celts were a group of peoples inhabiting much of Europe and Asia Minor in pre-Roman times. They reached their height in the 5th to 1st centuries BC before being overrun by the Romans and other Germanic peoples. Their lasting influence, which continues to this day, is in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and parts of England.

The Celts believed that on Oct. 31, or some say Nov. 1, the ordinary laws of time and space are temporarily suspended, and the thin veil between the our earth world and the spirit world are lifted. Loved ones who had died could be communicated with on their way to heaven (the Summerlands). “Single candles were lit and left in a window to help guide the spirits of ancestors and loved ones home. Extra chairs were set to the table and around the hearth for the unseen guest. Apples were buried along roadsides and paths for spirits who were lost or had no descendants to provide for them. Turnips were hollowed out and carved to look like protective spirits, for this was a night of magic and chaos. Then they would celebrate the Feast of the Dead.”

People were advised against traveling that night. If they did, they dressed in white to look like ghosts, disguised themselves with straw, or tried to look like the opposite sex to fool the Nature Spirits. Does any of this sound familiar to you? Did you ever wonder why we celebrated Halloween the way we do? Americans began carving pumpkins in 1866. It’s much easier than carving turnips, and they’re larger.

All Saints Day had its origins in the 300s. It is the day on which “Catholics celebrate all the saints, known and unknown … a surprisingly old feast. It arose out of the Christian tradition of celebrating the martyrdom )being killed) of saints on the anniversary of their martyrdom. When martyrdoms increased during the persecutions of the late Roman Empire, local dioceses instituted a common feast day in order to ensure that all martyrs, known and unknown, were properly honored.”

It was originally the first Sunday after Pentecost, but Pope Gregory III (731-741) changed the date to Nov. 1. It started out being a celebration of martyrs, then saints were added, and then it included all saints known, and unknown. Now I really like that part. I’m certain that I’ve known some “saints” in my life, those people whose love touches many and lovingly affects them for life. And that seems to be what they live for, not fame, money, or glory, but just to be of loving service to all they come in contact with. I’m sure that you are thinking of all the “saints” you’ve known in your life.

I’m not Mormon, but the Church of the Latter-day Saints believes that everyone who has entered the Christian covenant of baptism is a saint. I’m not Catholic either, but Catholics believe that Saints are those that made it to heaven, and Catholics ask them to help pray.

So maybe this Halloween you might set a little time aside to remember your family ancestors and loved ones. Send them some loving thoughts and appreciate all they did for you. They worked hard just to keep your lineages alive … with no electricity, running water, modern communication systems, and appliances, etc. It could also be a good time to forgive anyone of them you hold a grudge against, and let your heart have more energy to love.

On All Saints Day, the day after Halloween, you might want to personally thank all the folks in your life who have helped make it better, who believe in the best of you, and always encourage that part of you to grow.

It might also be fun to look up who your saint is. Now I’m not Catholic, but there are saints assigned for every day of the year, and they have feasts assigned to their days. If you look up your birthday, you’ll see the ones assigned to you. Go to http://www.catholic.org/saints/f_day/aug.php

One last word, and that’s about getting your body back into balance after consuming too much sugar. We all do it, but it is tough on the body. Humans weren’t meant to consume large quantities of pure sugar and unrefined carbohydrates. Watch a little child after consuming too much sugar: happy face, manic face, crabby face, crying face, puddle. Adults are affected similarly. But for “the day after” maybe this will help:

“Don’t starve yourself the day after a sugar binge. Instead, wait until your body feels hungry again and eat a small protein- and fiber-rich meal like broiled salmon and roasted broccoli (eggs or tofu and veggies, green leafy veggies are best). A meal like this will keep your blood sugar in control and stimulate hormones that encourage your body to burn sugar that it has stored for energy (which you’ll have a lot of because a big sugar binge can super-saturate your body’s sugar stores). Drink a lot of water and continue to eat a higher-protein, lower-carbohydrates diet for the entire post-binge day. This will help you burn off that extra sugar, as well as the water weight that goes along with it.”

So Happy Halloween. Knowledge is power.

• Hale `Opio Kaua’i convened a support group of adults in our Kaua’i community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah.


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