Why do we celebrate Halloween?

The roots of Halloween are traced back to the Druid religion and Lord Samhain. Halloween took aspects of darkness, black color, evil spirits and people rising from the dead and roaming the earth on Halloween night. No Druid god was more powerful, nor more feared, than Lord Samhain. Samhain is a very important date in the Pagan calendar for it marks the Feast of the Dead. Non-pagans celebrate this Feast of the Dead and call it Halloween. On the night of October 31 pagans celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the other worldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests to make predictions about the future.

The original jack-o-lanterns were carved from turnips, potatoes of beets. Soon after Jack (as in jack-o-lantern) died, as the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell either. So Jack was left to roam the earth and make others miserable because misery loves company and to frighten children with scary countenances.

So in celebration of this our children dress up in costumes to hide their real identities and travel from house to house demanding treats or threatening mischief on the home owners or their property if no treat is given, like little bank robbers with masks. Huge amounts of sugar candy are collected and taken home and consumed by the children until they get sick or have an allergic reaction or cry and protest if it taken away from them.

Now back to my initial question: Why do we celebrate Halloween? It is a pagan ritual clothed in darkness, black color, evil spirits and people rising from the dead, roaming the earth and scaring little children. Celebrating that doesn’t make any sense to me. The only people who derive any benefit from Halloween are the stores that sell candy and costumes. What would we really lose if we skipped Halloween?

Kent Pilling Ph.D.

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