Pagans, Christians and Halloween

Halloween and paganism is irrevocably linked in most people’s minds. However, this should not be so, for modern secular Halloween and paganism actually have very little to do with each other.

The Halloween that is celebrated today in the United States is a day when children and adults alike can dress up and collect candy. People host Halloween parties where guests can bob for apples and drink punch. So, what does that have to do with paganism? Very little, really. Actually, pagans don’t even celebrate Halloween as a spiritual holiday.

The pagan holiday is called Samhain, and depending on the pagan, is observed on October 31st or another date in mid-November. Samhain is a time when pagans honor their family members and friends who have passed away. In early times, it was believed that the veil between this world and the Otherworld was thin, and our ancestors could give advice and guidance. People put candles in hollowed out turnips so the spirits could find their way, and set out food as offerings. The spirits of loved ones are not to be feared-pagans greet them just as they would a living relative who has been away for a while. Some pagans also celebrate Samhain as the start of a new year. Samhain is the time to contemplate death, and on the other side of death is a new life.

Christianity actually created Halloween. As Christianity was spreading throughout Europe, the clergy had difficulties convincing the general populace to stop celebrating their pagan holidays. In most cases, the church made up holidays that occurred at the same time of year as the old pagan festivals. Instead of celebrating the Winter Solstice, the church told people to celebrate Christ’s birth during the long winter months. And instead of Samhain, the church convinced people that spirits needed to be scared away by dressing up in ghoulish costumes, and Halloween was born.

Pagans all have different opinions of Halloween. For some, Halloween is a part of their American culture that is very separate from their spiritual beliefs. They dress up, trick or treat, and attend Halloween parties, and separately take part in rituals for Samhain. While the two holidays may fall on the same day, they’re each part of different cultures and serve different purposes. Halloween is for having fun, indulging the imagination, and being silly. Samhain is a time to remember loved ones who have passed on and to be grateful for the life our ancestors have given them.

Some pagans are offended by the modern, secular Halloween. Samhain is an important festival in the spiritual lives of pagans, and they view Halloween as vulgar and sacrilegious. Pagans celebrated Samhain long before Christians started celebrating Halloween, and they resent that Christians have “stolen” their holiday. These pagans don’t give out candy on Halloween or attend Halloween parties. They participate in their Samhain activities, and that’s all.

Many pagans are confused by some communities’ attempts to stop people from celebrating Halloween. Schools ban children from dressing up during classes on Halloween and cancel parades and parties. Some cities host harvest festivals in order to keep people from celebrating Halloween. All of this is done because some Christians are afraid of the pagan origins of Halloween. These people don’t realize that Christianity created Halloween to stop paganism, and that the modern version of Halloween has very little to do with paganism. Any fears of a connection between Satanism and Halloween are completely unfounded-after all, Satanism is actually a form of Christianity, not paganism (for it is the Christian devil that is worshipped, not any pagan god or goddess-and by definition, pagans don’t believe in the Christian god or devil). Satanism has nothing to do with Samhain or with Halloween. The only real thing that keeps people afraid of Halloween is ignorance. If people would open themselves to learning the truth behind Halloween and Samhain, they would see that the two are very different. Children will not be corrupted by dressing up as princesses or superheroes any more than they will be corrupted by celebrating Christmas at the same time of year as the Winter Solstice

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