What Christian holiday resulted from the Roman Catholic Church co-opting a pagan festival that marked the beginning of winter?
Christmas, you say? No—Halloween. That’s right, Halloween is a contracted form of “All Hallows’ Eve,” a Catholic holiday that was moved by the Church from mid-May to October 31 in the 8th century AD to appropriate an existing Celtic pagan holiday called Samhain, which marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter.
With all the controversy about renaming Christmas trees to “holiday trees” or Christmas parties to “holiday parties” because Christmas is “solely for Christians,” why don’t we see any of this renaming occurring for Halloween-related things? Why does the secular world at large use a Roman Catholic-derived term to denote supposedly secular holiday activities?
Of course, Halloween in modern practice has virtually no associations with the Church whatsoever, although the day that follows it (All Hallows’ Day) still remains a religious holiday celebrated by Western Christians the world over. The only difference between Halloween and Christmas is that Christianity at large has rejected the modern secularized version of the former, but embraced the secularized version of the latter.
Why should we let Christian religious observances or lack thereof of any particular holiday dictate whether we are willing to use terms with Christian etymology? If a group of neopagans started worshipping Thursday because it was named for Thor, would that result in the society at large referring to that day as “Deityday” to avoid any association with their religious observance?
Food for thought. Please share your comments below.
Oh, and Happy Halloween (or happy late-October holiday season to those who are not Roman Catholics or Celtic pagans)!