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Why Halloween?
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Photo: Karolina Michalak
Where did Halloween come from?  Do other cultures celebrate a similar tradition? Does it tell us anything meaningful about life after death?

The Celts, a people who inhabited extensive regions of Europe and the British Isles, had a colorful festival called Samhain to honor their dead. These festivities were celebrated at the end of October and beginning of November and marked the beginning of winter.

The Celts believed that on the night of October 31, the spirits of the dead came back to visit their earthly homes. To please the spirits of loved ones and to keep bad spirits away, the Celts would leave food or sweets outside of their dwellings, a tradition that gave way to what is called trick-or-treating today, in which children go from house to house asking for candy.

When Roman Catholicism came into contact with the Celts, an effort was made to fuse the festival traditions. That is how November 1 became All Saints Day, a day to honor the dead. The night of October 31, eve of All Saints Day, was called Allhallows eve, from whence is derived the word Halloween.

Ethnic groups of the New World also preserve similar practices of honoring the dead. Among Mexicans, these festivals are a mixture of indigenous Aztec and Hispanic culture. The Aztecs offered food and clothing to their dead and sacrificed young girls, young men, and slaves to accompany them on the journey to the next world.

After the Spaniards conquered the Aztecs, Catholic missionaries did the same with Aztec festivals as they had done with the Celtic. They instituted the celebration of All Saints Day, during which they presented offerings to the dead on the first and second days of November.

I used to celebrate these rites and preparations. Each year, toward the end of October, my mother would prepare to honor our dead according to Mexican tradition. She would make white flowers for adults and pink flowers for children, wax them, and fasten them to wire hoops. On November 1 and 2…we would place these floral offerings on the graves or hang them from the crosses of our loved ones.

How moving and yet how useless were all of these efforts to please our dead loved ones.

In truth, we were created to live. The Bible states that God has “set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In other words, hope for eternity is instinctive. That is why even though mistaken, the Egyptians, like the Aztecs, attempted to aid their dead in a successful journey into the beyond. In short, most cultures assume that there is more than just the short life we live on this earth. There must be some remedy for death and dying, isn’t there? But what is it? Who has it?

Only He who has the absolute truth, the Spirit of God, can help us understand this mystery.

Solution for the Problem of Death

The God of the Bible offers the only authentic solution for the problem of death: resurrection. Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, became human, died, and was raised again. When He was dying, Jesus exclaimed to His Father, “Into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). And at the moment Jesus was raised from the dead, the corpse of the Savior recovered the breath of life that He had committed to His Father upon death.

The dead are not alive. The breath that energized their flesh has returned to God, but it does not have self-existence. It is under God’s control. True, in spiritualist séances the dead are invoked and someone appears—but it is only an imposter demon.

When all sin and sinners have disappeared forever, the saved, living on the restored earth, will enjoy God’s eternal company. Never again will they experience sin, nor the seed of death, nor even the fear of death, because “there will be no more death” (Revelation 21:4).

The Celts and the Romans, the Aztecs and the Spaniards loved their dead and wanted to please them. My mother and I did also, but we were mistaken. This October 31, instead of giving offerings to the dead, we can do something so much better.

We can celebrate life by offering ourselves to Jesus Christ, who overcame death and offers us eternal life.

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By Alfredo Campechano. Portions reprinted with persmission from Signs of the Times, November 2006. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.


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