As the church stepped into a new position of worldly honor that she had never before known, these martyrs were officially recognized. There were not enough days on the calendar to set aside for each name, so eventually one day was set aside for remembrance of all. In A.D. 610, the church dedicated May 13 as All Saints Day. The "holy day" was added to other Christian festivals already being celebrated, namely Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. Also known as All Hallows, May 13 was the date the festival was celebrated for over 100 years.

Then in A.D. 741, All Hallows, or All Saints Day, found a new home on the calendar. At that time there were concerns about the growing popularity of a pagan festival held on November 1, known as Samhain (sow-en). With origins dating back to the days of the Celts and Druids, this pagan festival was beginning to have an influence even within the Christian community. To counteract this influence, the church turned to a previously successful strategy of claiming the controversial date as their own. This strategy had worked well in the case of Christmas. The celebration of Jesus birth was assigned December 25 on the calendar not because it was proved as the actual date He was born, but because pagans were celebrating the Winter Solstice at that time. The goal was to redeem the Winter Solstice season.

To that end, Samhain was challenged by moving the church's celebration of All Saints Day to November 1. Borrowing from the Jewish tradition of preparing for significant festivals, the Christian church reserved the day before the religious festival as a sacred time also. October 31, was then, set aside as the evening of preparation called "All Hallow ‘een," or "the eve of the holy ones." Together, they created a meaningful time for the church to remember the early martyrs.

Obeying Hebrews 13:7, the church fathers believed in the value of honoring faithful men and women: "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith." No matter what denomination you belong to, we are all part of the universal church that suffered in the name of Christ. There was, and still is, much to imitate in the lives of not only those who died a martyr's death, but also those who lived out lives full of faith.

That is what the night of Halloween was orginally established to contemplate and celebrate.

In the next installment, Trick-or-Treating With Purpose, we'll look at a practical way Christian parents can celebrate Halloween with their kids in keeping with the faith.

Originally posted Oct. 13, 2005


 

This article was adapted from Redeeming Halloween: Celebrating without Selling Out (Focus on the Family and Tyndale House). Copyright 2004 by Kim Wier and Pam McCune. Pick up a copy online or at your local bookstore for more in-depth information and ideas on celebrating this unique and spiritual holiday.

Kim Wier is the director of Engaging Women, a ministry of women encouraging women through speaking, writing and broadcasting. The author of four books, an award winning humor columnist and radio talk show host, Kim regularly speaks to audiences around the country with depth and humor that focuses on discovering God in the everyday experiences of life. For more visit www.engagingwomen.com.