Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween: Facts And Misinformation

The Halloween season of October 31 to November 2 each year is unique. It includes:

A Neopagan Sabbat:

Samhain, usually celebrated on or near the evening of October 31. It was originally a celebration of the final harvest of the growing season among the ancient Celts. It was also their new year celebration. Today, it is mainly celebrated by Wiccans and other Neo-Pagans

Three Christian holy days:

All Saints' Day (a.k.a. All Hallows' Day) on November 1. The holiday was first celebrated on 609-MAY-13 CE when Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to the Virgin Mary. The date was later changed to November 1 by Pope Gregory III who dedicated a chapel in honor of All Saints in the Vatican Basilica. Pope Gregory IV (827-844) later extended the feast to the whole church. The Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate All Saints Day in the springtime -- the Sunday after Pentecost.

All Souls' Day (a.k.a. the Day of the Dead) which is normally celebrated on November 2. When November 2 is a Sunday, as it was for the year 2003, the celebration is held on the following Monday. This is a day for prayer and almsgiving in memory of ancestors who have died. Believers pray for the souls of the dead, in an effort to hasten their transition from Purgatory to Heaven. It is primarily celebrated by Roman Catholics. The day is believed to have been selected by "St. Odilo, the fifth abbot of Cluny...France because he wanted to follow the example of Cluny in offering special prayers and singing the Office of the Dead on the day following the feast of All Saints."

Some Protestants celebrate Reformation Day. This is the anniversary of 1517 October 31 CE, the day that Martin Luther's published his 95 theses. These were criticisms of beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic church, particularly related to the sale of indulgences. He is widely believed to have published them in a dramatic manner, by nailing them to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Actually, that never happened. He did write a letter to his superiors attacking the sale of indulgences; the 95 theses were merely appended to the letter. This triggered for the Protestant Reformation, leading to a decades-long war in Europe, enmity between Catholics and Protestants, and the fracture of Christianity into thousands of individual faith groups. A secular celebration, Halloween on the evening of October 31. In some areas, if October 31 falls on a Sunday, Halloween is celebrated on the evening of October 30. Stores love Halloween. It is the festival when the largest amount of candy is sold. It is second only to Christmas in total commercial sales. The total sale of costumes, candy and other Halloween material reached almost $7 billion in 2003.

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