Sunday, October 31, 2010

Transforming Pagan Traditions


Well, I was going to do this earlier so as to be on Halloween, but c'est la vie. So, When I was growing up, my mom allowed me to trick-or-treat and dress up, but always de-emphasized the more Halloweeny type things, witches, goblins, ghosts, etc. because it seemed strange to celebrate something as Christians we consider to be evil. Don't worry, I never felt deprived or longed to secretly be a witch (well, maybe as a mom to 5 kids on a really bad day, the inner witch surfaces but...). 

I wanted to carry this attitude into our tradition with my firstborn, though in retrospect was a little too gung-ho about it. Now Halloween is my oldest child's FAVORITE thing. Ah well, live and learn, right? 

But, learning more about my faith as I got older and spending time with some great Catholic families, I learned a surprisingly glorious fact. Halloween is actually a Christian holiday. Go figure! Well ok, for all you historical sticklers, it actually started out as a pagan holiday (Woohoo for pagans!) 

The true origins of Halloween lie with the ancient Celtic tribes who lived in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany. For the Celts, November 1 marked the beginning of a new year and the coming of winter. The night before the new year, they celebrated the festival of Samhain, Lord of the Dead. During this festival, Celts believed the souls of the dead—including ghosts, goblins and witches—returned to mingle with the living. In order to scare away the evil spirits, people would wear masks and light bonfires.
When the Romans conquered the Celts, they added their own touches to the Samhain festival, such as making centerpieces out of apples and nuts for Pomona, the Roman goddess of the orchards. The Romans also bobbed for apples and drank cider—traditions which may sound familiar to you. But where does the Christian aspect of the holiday come into play? In 835, Pope Gregory IV moved the celebration for all the martyrs (later all saints) from May 13 to November 1. The night before became known as All Hallow’s Even or “holy evening.” Eventually the name was shortened to the current Halloween. On November 2, the Church celebrates All Souls Day.The purpose of these feasts is to remember those who have died, whether they are officially recognized by the Church as saints or not. It is a celebration of the “communion of saints,” which reminds us that the Church is not bound by space or time. 
(-http://www.americancatholic.org/messenger/oct2001/family.asp)

Now, do we go around the house saying "Happy All Hallow's Even!" Not usually, though every child gets the explanation of what Halloween actually means. And my kids get plenty of gore from stories of the martyrs, not senseless gore, but noble. St. Lucy gets her eyes gouged out (just going with the theme!). St. Lawrence is burned on a grill (have always loved his sense of humor when he said "turn me over, I am done on this side."). St. Joan of Ark is burned at the stake and accused of being a witch (There's Halloween for ya!). St. Sebastian is shot to death with arrows. St Stephen is stoned to death. We also, on All Hallow's Eve weekend, have an All Saints party in our Homeschool group and the little kids dress up as their favorite saint and share their story while playing games with their friends and getting candy prizes. My kids wear saint costumes at this party and a costume of their choice on Halloween, affectionately referred to as the pagan costumes. ;)

 As Christians, we are called to transform the culture we live in, not reject it. So, in the words of the Little Guy, I hope you had a "Happy Howy-ween!!" and Happy All Saints and All Souls Day! (Nov 1st and 2nd)
Halloween boy, who still uses his shirt for a napkin.
"If it's messy and could be smeared on something, I'm in!!"
The Queen is St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a princess famed for sneaking out and feeding the poor.
Kateri Tekakwitha, an indian girl named "Lily of the Mohawks"
St. Christopher, "Christ-Bearer", a giant who searched the world over for the most powerful king, and discovered the Christ child.
This actually doubles as a pagan/Christian costume, a cow on Noah's ark/or...just a cow.
Star Wars Clone Trooper (Star Wars, what else is there?) and Cat Woman.

Race car driver, ironically he did not need the car to play the part, He is his own motor.
This was an adorable lion costume, unfortunately Angel Boy and I were having a wrestling match to keep the hood on for the picture.
 An ode to the homemade marshmallows I made for the first time this year. They looked like tofu squares, but tasted yummy, so they said. We don't do corn syrup so these are corn syrup free. Tastes better than store bought! 
The pumpkin family bids you farewell.
**Update**: Everyone's a little older and our pumpkins a little more sophisticated, but we pretty much do the same thing. Oh Look, it's Cat Woman, again! The Little Guy is a ghost (which I took as an opportunity to educate him on praying for the dead, you know I couldn't resist!) My oldest son a skeleton, also an edcational moment about being dead versus alive in Christ. My kids LOVE these educational moments. ;) Princess is Periwinkle, Angel Boy is about the most adorable Batman on the planet. Happy All Saints day! All you holy men and women pray for us.




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