In modern times, Halloween is a fun holiday when people can dress up in costumes, carve pumpkins, and go trick-or-treating. Most people simply view Halloween as a secular holiday with no religious connotations. But the origins of Halloween were much more superstitious and can be traced back thousands of years to ancient Britain in the days of the Celts and their priests, the Druids. Druids were soothsayers, magicians, and sorcerers. These pagans worshipped numerous gods, natural objects, and seasonal cycles. Their religion often involved sacrifices and magic.
The Druids believed that demons and spirits of the dead roamed the earth on the eve of November 1st. They thought that the spirits could not rest peacefully until given adequate food, drink, and other treasures. If a spirit was not given a treat, it would "trick" or haunt those who refused to appease it. The Druids disguised themselves so the bad spirits would not be able to recognize them and thus would not bring any harm to them. Bonfires were lit to drive away evil spirits, and sacrifices were thrown into the fire. Druids would also carry jack-o-lanterns (turnips and potatoes carved with a scary or grotesque face - but not pumpkins, which were a New World vegetable) to intimidate the demons around them.
Many years later, Christianity had been established in Northern Europe and Britain. Despite the church's attempt to eradicate them, the pagan practices associated with evil spirits survived. The Roman Catholic Church wanted to provide an alternative to the aforementioned pagan ceremonies. They set aside the first day of November as All Saints' Day, a feast day to honor all the saints who had no special days of their own. The previous evening became known as Holy Evening or All Hallows' Eve. This name was eventually shortened to Halloween. It is the celebration of the victory of the saints in union with Christ.
As Protestant theologian James B. Jordan writes, "The concept, as dramatized in Christian custom, is quite simple: On October 31, the demonic realm tries one last time to achieve victory, but is banished by the joy of the Kingdom. What is the means by which the demonic realm is vanquished? In a word: mockery. Satan’s great sin (and our great sin) is pride. Thus, to drive Satan from us we ridicule him. This is why the custom arose of portraying Satan in a ridiculous red suit with horns and a tail. Nobody thinks the devil really looks like this. Rather, the idea is to ridicule him because he has lost the battle with Jesus and he no longer has power over us." (The tradition of mocking Satan and defeating him through joy and laughter plays a large role in Ray Bradbury’s classic novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes, which is a Halloween novel.)
While nowadays many people enjoy dressing up in costumes, wearing masks, carrying jack-o-lanterns, and playing trick-or-treat as harmless fun, some Christians choose not to participate in Halloween activities which have occult origins or that glorify images of devils, witches, ghosts, evil, violence, gore, and death. The Bible says: "Let no one be found among you who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord" (Deut. 18:10-12). On the other hand, the Bible assures us that the saints will be victorious in our battle against these demonic forces: "The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly" (Romans 16:20).
Did You Know…?
Halloween is the favorite holiday of J. K. Rowling, author of the HARRY POTTER series.
Are Witches Real?
The term witch comes from the Old English word "wicca," derived from the Germanic root "wic," meaning to bend or to turn. By using magic, a witch is believed to change or bend events. The word witch can be applied to a man or a woman. In the past, male witches were also called warlocks and wizards. Witchcraft is a real pagan religion that still exists today. In ancient times they considered October 31 to be summer's end, with November 1 the beginning of a new year. Modern witches continue to celebrate Halloween as their highest holiday of the year.
William Shakespeare's "Macbeth" portrays the classic stereotype of old hags crouched over a cauldron muttering incantations. The play takes place in the 11th century, and while some witches of the Middle Ages made magic in this way, they also used other methods. It was during this time that the Druids' magical practices found an outlet through witchcraft. Shakespeare gathered together all the popular beliefs about witches' brew from late 16th century England and concocted the following famous recipe. Although the strange ingredients do not sound very appetizing, some of them are really names of herbs. Other ingredients were given symbolic names-part of the witches' code to keep the substances a secret.
Round about the cauldron go;
Fall Harvest Festival
Decorate your house with scarecrows, corn stalks, autumn leaves, colorful Indian corn, gourds, and pumpkins of all different shapes and sizes. Have a pumpkin carving contest, or draw funny faces on them with markers. Make popcorn, toast pumpkin seeds, serve apple cider, and dunk for apples. Dress like farmers and have a potluck dinner consisting of classic harvest dishes made of corn, squash, pumpkin, apples, etc.
Have a costume party with prizes awarded to the best- and worst-dressed. Wear fancy, imaginative costumes. For example, you might dress up as your favorite storybook character or as a famous person from history. Put on some classical music and play old-fashioned parlor games, such as Charades and Blindman's Bluff.
HALLOWEEN PARTY GAMES
Flashlight tag is a perfect Halloween game! Or play Pin the Tail on the Black Cat. (Draw a picture of a black cat on a piece of poster board. Make several tails and attach a piece of tape to each. Blindfold the kids and let them go for it.) Or make balloon jack-o-lanterns. (Blow up a bunch of round, orange-colored balloons. Draw jack-o-lantern faces on them with markers.)
Black Cat Cookies -You can make black cats from Oreo cookies. You will also need candy corn, M&M's, red licorice string, and black tinted frosting. Place two M&M's on the Oreo for the eyes, using frosting to glue them on. Put two candy corns on top of the Oreo for ears, using frosting to hold them in place. Make a red licorice mouth and whiskers and attach with frosting. Finally, attach a chocolate chip or a brown or black M&M for the nose.
Wormy Jello - Mix up your favorite flavor of Jello and refrigerate for about an hour and a half until partially set. Add gummy worms and refrigerate until firm.
Ghoulish Punch - Mix three of your favorite Kool-Aid flavors together to get a weird color.
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds - You will need: 1 small pumpkin, 2 tbsp. vegetable oil, and salt. Use an ice cream scoop to remove the insides of a pumpkin. Separate the seeds from the pumpkin fiber. (This a messy job that you might want to do outside.) To make the process a little easier, fill a bowl with water and let the pumpkin seeds soak. Have a bowl of clean water nearby and a colander, too. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Toss the rinsed pumpkin seeds into a smaller bowl, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with salt. Spread the seeds on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 - 40 minutes, or until slightly brown.
Festive Halloween Punch - You will need: 1 large can pineapple juice, 2 large cans apricot-orange juice, 1 quart apple juice, 2 quarts ginger ale, 1 quart orange sherbet. Combine fruit juices and ginger ale in punch bowl. Float sherbet in punch. Serves 50.
Witch's Brew - You will need a large bowl or pot (preferably a large black one). Place the following ingredients inside brown paper lunch bags with the names scrawled on the outside of the bag: Blood Drops (Red Hots), Owl Eyes (Peanuts), Cats Eyes (Peanut M&Ms), Chicken Toenails (Corn Candy), Colored Flies (M&Ms), Butterfly Wings (Fritos), Earthworms (Corn Curls), Cat Claws (Sunflower Seeds), Ants (Raisins), Snake Eyes (Chocolate Chips), Cobwebs (Triscuits), Lizard Gizzards (Shoestring Potatoes), and Bat Bones (Pretzels). Dress appropriately, use your imagination and drama skills to set the scene, dim the lights, and let the children watch as you combine the ingredients and stir them with a large wooden spoon. Then eat and enjoy!
See Also: Dia de los Muertos (Learn about the traditional Mexican "Day of the Dead.")
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