MEL LIPMAN, former president of the American Humanist Association, and founding member of the Humanist Association of Las Vegas, discusses the embrace of the Pagan Holiday by the Christians in the 8th century!.
Although most religious holidays have Pagan roots, some Christians especially dislike Halloween because it is the most Pagan. Its date of October 31 was set by the ancient Celts of Europe as the eve of the first day of winter and the eve of their New Year.
With the coming of early darkness, the evil forces were believed to free free to emerge. The natural boundaries between the human and the spiritual worlds were thought to be temporarily suspended. Humans would disguise themselves in masks and robes in the hope that malevolent spirits would think them their own.
Later, with the conversion of large numbers of Celts to Christianity, Druidic practices merged into Christian ritual. In the 8th century, Pope Gregory declared November 2 to be All Saints Day or All Hallows Day, incorporating the pagan rituals into the church. (“Hallow” is from the old English “halig”, meaning holy person) But descendants of the Celts continued to follow the ancient tradition of building bonfires, and wearing costumes and masks on the eve of All Hallows (now Halloween) to ward off the evil spirits. That practice continues to the present, although the ancient purpose of the practice may have changed. As Humanists, our philosophy is grounded in the intellect rather than by archaic superstition. Why then would rational Humanists celebrate Halloween, a holiday rooted in Druidic and Christian history. Why do I intend to go trick or treating with my grandchildren?
The reason is simple. Because it can be a lot of fun. Here is one day of the year that gives us a chance to act irrationally, dress bizarrely, and temporarily shed our intellectuality – in a playful way.
Witches and ghosts may not be “rational”, BUT THEY ARE FUN. So let’s enjoy ourselves this Halloween and lets enjoy the kids who come all dressed up for trick or treating.