Friday, January 3, 2020

Christian Trivia Question #9 - Halloween

Simple question this time. Where does the word Halloween come from?


  1. Steph's answer:

    Without googling anything..... I think Halloween comes from All Hallow's Eve? But then I'm not sure where that came from. Maybe a saint? Who liked pumpkins and black cats.

    1. You're right Steph. It is a transliteration of "All Hallow's Eve". But what's that and where do those words come from?
      The Lord's Prayer is a hint.

  2. Every December, the secular, cultural celebration of Christmas overshadows the religious holiday on which it is based (the day Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ).

    The same thing happens at the end of October, when the way American culture celebrates Halloween overshadows the original celebration of “Halloween”.
    In the minds of most people Halloween has become so detached from its religious roots that they have no idea where it comes from.

    The word Halloween contributes to this. Some may have heard that Halloween is short for “All Hallows Eve,” but that doesn’t help much—because they don’t know what a hallow is or what “…een” means.

    “Newer” languages (like English) have many words based on older languages. English also has an unusual double vocabulary, with two words for the same thing. Examples would be house/dwelling, cat/feline, and spirit/ghost. The last two English words have a Latin/German pair: spirit (Latin: spiritus) and ghost (German: geist).
    “Holy” is another Latin/German pairing: (Latin: sanctus / German: hallow). You can see the Latin root in the following English words:
    • saint – one who is holy or set apart
    • sanctuary – an area set apart for “Holy” activities like worshipping the Holy God
    • sanctify – which means to make holy.

    The German word for Holy is “hallow” – as in “Hallowed be Thy name”, or “you are standing on hallowed ground”.
    So someone who is hallowed is a saint—someone who has been sanctified or made holy. Thus in the Old English version of the Lord’s Prayer which we are all familiar with, we say “Hallowed be thy name.” Using words derived from Latin, it would be something like, “Let Your name be sanctified”—i.e., may people treat God’s name as something holy and thus honor the holiness of God Himself.

    The –een part of Halloween also has an old English origin. “E’en” is a contraction of the word even, an older way of saying “evening.” Halloween is thus literally: “SAINTS EVE”. It refers to the evening before the annual Christian celebration started in the 8th century remembering all the Christians who are in heaven - thus “ALL-HALLOWS-E’EN” or “the evening of All Saints Day”. All Hallows Eve came to be celebrated as an early anticipation of the day that followed, the same way people today celebrate Christmas Eve in anticipation of Christmas Day.

    The writer of Hebrews lists many “heroes of the faith” in Chapter 11 (Moses, Abraham, Rahab, Gideon, Samson, David, and Samuel). Hebrews 11 goes on to describe unnamed, faithful believers this way:

    “others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented of whom the world was not worthy.”

    They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. ….God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” Heb 11:36-40
    The phrase “…made perfect…” refers to those who are perfect in heaven. The very next verse (Heb 12:1) says:
    “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…”
    This “cloud of witnesses” – those in heaven - are part of the one Body of Christ. Remembering and honoring those who have gone before us to heaven relates to the “communion of saints” – a phrase in the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds which Christians have recited since the 2nd and 4th centuries, respectively. (I remember saying the Apostle’s Creed every Sunday as a kid in the tiny Presbyterian Church I grew up in.)

    So don’t let anyone tell you Halloween is a “pagan holiday”. If they do, you can explain that it has been a Christian holiday for over 1000 years – long before Trick or Treat, horror movies, and jack-o-lanterns.

    1. Kelsey:
      Wow, who would’ve thought! Thanks Mr. Hoff!

    2. Steph:

      Super interesting. I wonder if the closeness to Dia De Los Muertos (Oct 31 - Nov 1) is a coincidence... since All Hallows Eve originally was to honor Christian saints who have passed and Mexicans use DDLM to honor their ancestors who have passed.

    3. No coincidence Steph. From Wikipedia:

      Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, in particular the Central and South regions, and by people of Mexican heritage elsewhere. The multi-day holiday involves family and friends gathering to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died.

      The holiday is sometimes called Día de los Muertos.. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico where the day is a public holiday. Prior to Spanish colonization in the 16th century, the celebration took place at the beginning of summer. Gradually, it was associated with October 31, November 1, and November 2 to coincide with the Western Christian triduum of Allhallowtide: All Saints' Eve, All Saints' Day, and All Souls' Day.