Saturday, November 08, 2008

Have we lost the true meaning of Halloween?

A video from The Onion: Has Halloween become overcommercialized?

At first I was disappointed by this because, believe it or not, I expected them to refer to the vigil of All Saints' Day: All Hallow's Eve, also called Hallowmas (Shakespeare calls it that in Two Gentlemen of Verona), from the Middle English Alholowmesse (All Saints' Mass).... Boy, am I out of touch. :)

By the way, it appears that the theory of the Catholic Church fixing this feast in order to appropriate old pagan customs is just as unsupported as the one that says the date of Christmas was picked for that reason. I can't find a lick of historical evidence for it. What I do find is that Gregory III set the date of this feast as November 1 in the 730's, and it was not a universal feast then, which I think means it applied only to Italy, or possibly only to Rome, and wasn't celebrated at all in the British Isles where the various pagan celebrations were occurring that it was supposedly meant to replace! A century later Gregory IV extended the feast to the whole church, but as the British Isles were very remote from him in those days I doubt he was as concerned about any druids there as he was about getting the entire universal Church to honor all the unknown saints who lacked feast days of their own.

Even if you didn't know all that, there's this: the pagan rituals weren't set on November 1. They took place in the fall but their dates were variable as far as I can tell, which probably means any major feast celebrated in the fall season would lay the Church open to this charge of syncretism!

The stories about the Church replacing pagan feast days with their own didn't crop up until after the Reformation, and they were used to accuse the Catholic Church of mixing Christianity with paganism, but I always thought that was a weak attack anyway. It wouldn't bother me if the Church did deliberately replace pagan feast days with Christian ones. What bothers me is 1) that everyone believes when there's no evidence for it, and 2) that some seem to think they've scored a hit against Christianity when they say it. I don't think they're thinking at all...

Oh, but the video is quite funny. :)

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