A couple of weeks ago, JD and I carved a pumpkin with the girls. It was the first one any of us had ever carved and we had a lot of fun doing it. We were all really proud of our first creation, but I felt compelled to learn about the history of jack o lanterns. My family never celebrated Halloween growing up so I knew very little about the holiday and its historical beginnings.
Later that night, I googled and found out jack o lanterns originated in Irish folklore. There was a guy named Stingy Jack who was a rotten scoundrel and played dirty tricks on everyone, including the devil. The devil made a deal with him that he wouldn't let him into hell if Stingy Jack let him out of a trap. When he died, true to his promise, the devil didn't let Jack in hell, but tossed him a burning ember from hell to light his way in eternity between heaven and hell. Legend has it that Stingy Jack put his ember in a hollowed out gourd, or pumpkin, and that every Halloween, his spirit can be found lingering about jack o lanterns. Read more here.
After I read that, I threw away our carved pumpkin. I know that we carved it totally innocent of what jack o lanterns represent, but JD and I were not comfortable having something on our porch that had affiliations with satanic folklore. I live my life in the Light of God's Truth and make efforts to avoid dark things in this world. I don't want to have anything to do with the devil or hell's fire, even if it is just a silly fairy tale. We have new pumpkins now, all faceless and flameless and we love them just as much as the first one we carved.
After learning about the historical beginnings of jack o lanterns, I researched the origins of Halloween next. I wanted to know for myself what the holiday was all about since I never celebrated it as a kid. What I read really sealed the deal for our decision to not celebrate. Much like the jack o lantern, Halloween's origins are deeply rooted in paganism and satanic folklore. Here's a short history:
Around 2,000 years ago, the Celts, who lived in what is now the United Kingdom, Ireland, and northern France, had a festival commemorating the end of the year. Their New Year was November 1, and this festival was called Samhain, pronounced sow-en. The end of their year signaled the end of summer, the end of the harvest season, and the beginning of a long, hard winter that often caused many deaths of animals and people. Weaker livestock were often killed and eaten during this holiday, since most likely, they would not survive the winter anyway. Because of this, and the cruel winter to come, this time of year signified death to the Pagan Celtics. They believed the night before the New Year, that the wall between the living and the dead was open, allowing spirits of the dead, both good and bad, to mingle among the living. Some of these spirits were thought to possess living people, cause trouble, ruin crops, or to search for passage to the afterlife.
Samhain was considered a magical holiday, and there are many stories about what the Celtics practiced and believed during this festival. Some say the spirits that were unleashed were those that had died in that year, and offerings of food and drink were left to aid the spirits, or to ward them away. Other versions say the Celts dressed up in outlandish costumes and roamed the neighborhoods making noise to scare the spirits away. Many thought they could predict the future and communicate with spirits as well during this time. Some think the heavily structured life of the Pagan Celtics was abandoned during Samhain, and people did unusual things, such as moving horses to different fields, moving gates and fences, women dressing as men, and vice versa, and other trickeries now associated with Halloween. Another belief is that the Celtics honoured, celebrated, and feasted the dead during Samhain. A sacred, central bonfire was always lit to honor the Pagan gods, and some accounts say that individual home fires were extinguished during Samhain, either to make their homes unattractive to roving spirits, or for their home fires to be lit following the festival from the sacred bonfire. Fortunes were told, and marked stones thrown into the fire. If a person's stone was not found after the bonfire went out, it was believed that person would die during the next year. Some Celts wore costumes of animal skulls and skins during Samhain. Faeries were believed to roam the land during Samhain, dressed as beggars asking for food door to door. Those that gave food to the faeries were rewarded, while those that did not were punished by the faeries. This is reported to be the first origin of the modern "trick or treat" practice. Read more here.
Now, I know that 99.9% of people that dress their kids up and go trick or treating are not summoning up evil spirits or acknowledging any sort of satanic ritual like the Pagan Celtics did in the first Halloween celebrations. They just want free candy and to see their kids dressed up like super heroes. I get it (heck, I want to participate just for the free candy!), but for us, we cannot participate in something that has origins in paganism and worship to false gods. Not when we're raising our kids to lead godly lives and stay away from dark things of this world.
JD and I decided long ago that our kids wouldn't celebrate Halloween. We will go to pumpkin patches and harvest festivals and have costume birthday parties, but we will not trick or treat and participate in traditional Halloween festivities. We have always felt comfortable that our kids would not be missing out on anything if we opted out of this holiday and even if they do, we are comfortable saying no to something we believe is not for them.
When I started this blog, I never wanted to get very personal. I wanted to write about my kids, my interests, and have a creative outlet for, well, writing. Over the years, I have gotten personal from time to time and while it's been met mostly with support and kind gestures from readers, sometimes I've received some pretty ugly criticism. It's caused me to not want to write about the personal beliefs my family has. If I don't put it out there, I won't get any negativity, kwim?
Anyway, I feel really compelled to write about Halloween and why we choose not to celebrate it. Mostly because practically everyone we know does celebrate and is probably wondering why we don't. Also, I want to express our beliefs for our family. Most of our friends and family celebrate Halloween and we don't think they are evil or horrible people. We love them and respect their decisions to celebrate however they see fit. Most of all, we do not judge anyone's beliefs or decision to participate. We realize not everyone has the same convictions and we aren't here to conform anyone to believe like we do. I just wanted to give a little insight to why we do not celebrate.
Happy Halloween! Just kidding ;)