Actually, the early church did the same sort of thing with many traditional, pagan celebrations including the harvest festival known as Samhain (pronounced ˈsaʊ.ɪn/ sow-in) in the Celtic lands and by other names elsewhere. Since this was also a time for honoring ancestors, November 1 became a Christian celebration honoring the saints and became "All Saints" or "All Hallows" Day, which led October 31 to become “All Hallows' Eve,” which became Halloween. In the Church calendar, All Hallows Day was followed by All Soul's Day and the whole period was sometimes referred to as Hallowmas or All Hallows tide.
Anyway, contrary to the beliefs of some modern Christians, Halloween is NOT some sort of a day to worship the Devil, it is a time to remember honored ancestors by collecting gifts and food (“soul cakes”) as offerings for ancestors, which is the origin of "trick or treating" and it was/is a part of a Christian tradition which probably dates back at least to the papacy of Pope Gregory III (d. AD 741).
Certainly Halloween has become a VERY popular occasion for parties, decorations and fun, with few specific religious overtones for most people. In fact, I believe that it is second only to Christmas in terms of money spent on parties, decorations, etc.
Still, there is a good deal of confusion over how “pagan” or “devilish” Halloween is (I’ve found NO evidence that is has anything to do with devil “worship,” and I HAVE looked). Samhain (the Celtic celebration) is probably the best known of these earlier, pagan, fall festivals which were “Christianized” by the early church, but there are equivalent celebrations in a number of other European cultures.
Anyway, I ran across this little poem about some of the confusion about Samhain a few years ago and thought I'd post it in honor of the occasion. As you will see, it does sound confused…
By Lord Fluff
Who is this guy they call Sam Hain?
I see his name in witchy books;
But when I ask my witchy friends;
They just give me the strangest looks.
He seems to be so important;
And everyone knows him but me;
Each year they throw him a party;
It sounds like THE cool place to be!
When I ask my friends what he’s like;
They all practically turn and run;
I need to get to know Sam Hain;
So I can join in all the fun!
I asked friends to introduce me;
I’ll have to introduce myself;
‘Cuz when I asked they looked at me;
As if I’m a demented elf!
So I searched the yellow pages;
I called up information too;
I just can’t find this guy Sam Hain;
I surfed the web ’til I turned blue!
I’ve heard my witchy friends planning;
And although they’ll think I’m a pain;
I’m going to crash his party;
Then I’ll finally meet Sam Hain!
Halloween is Maggi, our younger daughter’s, favorite holiday and she really goes all the way with it. This year, she was finally able to get the “Gothic dungeon” room she has wanted in her basement (with some help from her Mom and Dad – I guess I haven’t forgotten everything about building fake fireplaces and painting “rock”) and got her mother to make her the “Evil Queen” costume she wanted (with no pattern and a lot of guess work).
We think it all turned out pretty well…