I have to admit that what has become the modern Halloween IS (almost certainly) descended from the ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain (sah-win or sow-in), which marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter (the “darker half” of the year). (NOTE: this was a festival of celebrating the harvest and honoring ancestors.) It has (at least rough) parallels in many cultures.
Then, in the 9th century, the Roman Catholic Church (THE Western Christian church at the time) shifted the date of All Saint’s Day (All Hallows Day or Hallowmas) to November 1 (which made November 2, All Soul’s Day). (NOTE: In the Orthodox tradition, All Saint’s Day is the first Sunday after Pentecost (where it started), so that the Orthodox tradition doesn’t seem to figure into this, as best I can tell.)
Anyway, it is fairly widely believed that this holy day was moved in an attempt by church leaders to “Christianize” the harvest festivals, which existed throughout virtually all of Western Europe. Along the line through history, the Mexican Day of the Dead festivities got mixed up in all of this, although the practice of remembering deceased friends and family is a common part of the harvest festivals of many cultures. Examples of this sort of thing exist from Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Ireland, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Norway and Finland. (Source: Wikipedia)
As time passed, All Hallow’s Eve (the evening, or day, before All Hallow’s Day) got shortened to Halloween (or Hallowe’en). “It initiates the triduum of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers. Within Allhallowtide, the traditional focus of All Hallows' Eve revolves around the theme of using "humor and ridicule to confront the power of death." This would include “souling” which most of us think of as a Christmas tradition (caroling), but which, if you go back, was a part of All Hallow’s as well, with people going door to door to sing and/or pray for the dead and being rewarded with a “soul cake.” (Source: Wikipedia)
What all this means, of course, is that the specific origins of this holiday are a bit murky and anything but really clear and specific. I think one can make a pretty good argument that the practice of going door to door “begging” treats, and dressing up to do so, also goes back to the Medieval tradition of “disguising.” Shakespeare actually makes reference to the whole idea in The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Speed: “… to speak puling (whiningly) like a beggar at Hallowmas.” II, 1, 21-22). This strongly suggests that many of the activities we associate with Halloween were fairly common by the time this play was written (probably between 1589-1592). That’s a while ago and, certainly, anything which smacked of “Devil Worship” would have met with considerably less than a positive response in Elizabeth’s England, so the idea must have been considered acceptable, at least to the official English Church.
What this suggests, at least to me, is that, while there may be some truth to the idea of pagan roots to the modern idea of dressing up, trick-or-treating, etc., on Halloween, there are also roots in the Christian church (at least the Western church), and they are not just in the Catholic tradition.
Actually, there’s a lot which can be said about how the celebration of Jesus’ birth, which was placed (by the Church leaders) on December 25th in the Fourth century, was also an attempt to “Christianize” the Pagan celebration of Yule (midwinter solstice), but that’s a story for another season. I’ll just say that I doubt that the Roman Empire would have been so stupid as to force people to travel for a census and taxation during the most difficult time of the year to do so. Easter is clearly related to Passover (Jesus WAS a Jew, after all) and its date MAY have something to do not only with the traditional date of that Jewish holiday, but that of the pagan “Ostara” (the Spring equinox) which was also an occasion for celebrations in the non-Christian community.
In any event, I have done some looking and nowhere have I found any evidence that there is anything which I, at least, would call “satanic” about any of the practices which influenced the modern Halloween. There ARE pagan influences, although it’s worth noting that the term “pagan” has its roots in Latin from pre-Christian, Roman days and appears to have referred to people who lived in rural areas; or, in military jargon, a non-combatant or civilian, so it’s not a term which really relates to religion.
What all of this seems to boil down to is that, even if we wish to be considered as “good” Christians, there doesn’t seem to be any reason not to have a little fun with Halloween. Dress up (many of us are “theatre people” so we do that with some frequency, anyway), read a ghost story, indulge yourself (and your friends) a bit (NOTE: I did NOT suggest overdoing it!).
There’s nothing evil, nasty or demonic about Halloween and anyone who tells you otherwise just doesn’t get it. One COULD make a case that the “anti-Halloween” “Harvest Festivals” which have sprung up some places are simply a way to avoid the name, which I find really stupid, but I won’t get into that. Have a great Halloween.