I wrote a few articles on Easter a few months ago that hopefully served to debunk some of the ridiculous myths that get passed around during these holidays. It seems that most holidays get bashed by various denominations and sects because of scare-mongering people who are just out to make money with lectures like to do. I hope to keep doing this for every major Christian holiday throughout the year to shed some light on some of the gross misconceptions.
One thing I’d like to point out about these articles is they will come off as being somewhat Pro-Catholic. I am not Catholic, and I don’t have any particular love for the Catholic Church. That being said, almost all of our Christian holidays originate in some form from the Catholic Church either as a replacement for an older celebration, or as a new one.
The most maligned holiday of the year is Halloween. It’s pretty easy to see why. There’s the dressing up as witches, devils and monsters in addition to all the mystical stuff that’s been attached to the holiday.
So here are a few basics of the holiday everyone needs to know.
Some Basic Facts
Hallowe’en is a contraction of “All Hallows Evening”. Alternatively the holiday is called “All Hallows Eve”. It might have been celebrated for the same reason Christmas Eve is celebrated.
Halloween proceeds All Saints Day on November 1st and All Souls Day on November 2nd. This is one of the most important holidays to the Catholic Church. The three holiday celebration from October 31st to November 2nd is called “Hallowmas”. It was established in the 8th century by Pope Gregory III. In some traditional Catholic countries November 1st is a national holiday. According to Wikipedia these are holy days of obligation to the Catholic church, and are presumably observed by all practicing Catholics, and by extension all Catholic countries.
In the United States and Canada (possibly, I hate it when articles forget Mexico. Greenland and the thirty-eight other countries are part of North America), Halloween was typically not celebrated because of Puritan influence. It wasn’t until an influx of Irish and Scottish immigrants that the holiday was spread across the United States.
In Mexico and other Latin countries in North and South America (as well as many parts of the southern United States) they celebrate Dia De Los Muertos (or Finados in Brazil) which takes place on November 1st and 2nd.
What Halloween Is Called In Some Other Languages
In my Easter Article I pointed out a lot of issues with the popular myths surrounding the holiday had a lot to do with the English idea that everyone calls everything the same thing we do in English. I call this “English Arrogance”, so I suspect this will play a role here so I ran Halloween through Google Translate for a handy reference so I won’t have to refer back to this so much:
Portuguese – “Dia das Bruxas” – my limited Portuguese says this means Day of the Witches
Spanish – Víspera de Todos los Santos – (Further research indicates it might be called La Noche De Las Brujas, or Dia De Las Brujas, depending on region. Spanish is spoken so many places by such a huge number of cultures this is really hard to pin down, I’ll try to keep discussion pinned down to Mexico in the articles just because it’s close.)
French – veille de la toussaint – Eve of All The Saints?
Italian – vigilia d’Ognissanti – Eve of Every Saint
Welsh – Calan Gaeaf – Winter New Year?
Practically everyone calls it the same thing, “The Night Before All Saints Day”, which is what Halloween means. There are a few outliers that call it “Witch’s Night” (mostly Latin languages) or something of that nature. Welsh calls it something to do with the New Year. It’s possible some other languages related to Welsh might do the same thing. I also found that most Asian languages called it some version of “Halloween”, which tells me those cultures likely just didn’t have an equivalent holiday and call it whatever their European conquerors/trading partners called it.
A Few Thoughts
Not to spoil the rest of the articles but I was surprised to learn some of the controversy over the holiday. There seems to be a fair bit of anti-Catholic propaganda circulating about the holiday, and no small amount of racism, which is surprising to me which is not something one typically associates with the season. I will hopefully shed some light on to it as the article progress.