Every Halloween, it seems, I come across some students or parents who are unaware of the roots of this holiday, and so here again are my posts from last Halloween for those who may have missed it.
I love reading scary, spooky Halloween stories to children at this time of year, but I am surprised at the number of students who are completely unaware of the roots of this holiday, and even of the derivation of the word itself. At a recent school visit, in answer to my question about the meaning of hallow, the only child who raised his hand to answer, said, “empty,” obviously confusing it with hollow. I suppose that is not at all surprising, given the number of people in the media who pronounce it “Holloween.”
Ever since I came to America, I find that some teachers and parents are somewhat wary of focusing, or even of acknowledging the ghoulish aspects of this holiday, while some go so far as to maintain that it is at odds with the Christian faith.
In order to keep the dark forces at bay, people dressed up in costumes to “fool” the wandering souls. With the advent of Christianity, the Celts still retained many of their ancient rituals (jack o lantern to ward off the evil spirits, dressing up in costumes and going from house to house – guising) and simply blended them into their new found Christian practices – going to Mass to celebrate the lives of the Saints and offering up special prayers for the dead.
Incidentally, the reason St. Patrick was so successful at bringing Christianity to Ireland, was that the Celtic people were already completely attuned to the idea of “other worlds” – Heaven and Hell, because they already believed in the “little people,” and they already knew that often times that which you cannot see is actually more real than what you can see.