While September is the beginning of the ecclesiastical year which is marked by our commemoration of the great devotion to God and extreme ascetism of St.Simeon the Stylite, the old custom of the Celtic peoples of Britain, Ireland and northern France was to bring in the new year at the end of October, but in a much darker fashion.
According to an article by the Russian Archpriest Victor Potapov, these people believe that physical life was born from death so it was logical for them to welcome the “new year” in the fall when, as they believed, the season of cold, darkness, decay and death began. The Celts believed that a certain deity, whom they called Samhain, was the lord of death. To him they gave honor at their New Year’s festival. On the eve of the festival the priests of the Celtic cult, the Druids, instructed their people to extinguish all hearth fires and lights and they ignited one large bonfire which was believed to be sacred. It was at that bonfire that sacrifices were made to the lord of death, Samhain. They believed that their lord, pleased with the offerings, would allow the dead to return to their homes. It was this belief that brought the tradition of wondering about in the dark dressed in costumes indicating ghosts, witches and demons.
Another belief of these ancient people was that their souls, if they were pleased by the offerings presented at the bonfire, could provoke the wrath of Samhain whose angels and servants could retaliate through a system of “tricks” or curses. Thus the dialogue of “trick or treat”. All of these things are a part of the modern “innocent” version of Halloween.
There is nothing new in Church discouraging Christians from taking part in Halloween celebrations. After all, they’ve been doing it since in the early Celtic Church the Holy Fathers attempted to counteract this pagan new year festival by establishing the Feast of All Saints. While in the East this feast would fall on the Sunday after Pentecost, it was the custom of the Celts for the faithful to attend a vigil service on October 31 and a morning Divine Liturgy on November 1. Interestingly enough, it was this custom which created the term “Halloween”. The Old English of “All Hallow E’en,” i.e. the eve of the commemorating all those who were hallowed became known as Halloween.
A name that sounds Christian but has nothing to do with it.
There are alternatives to celebrating Halloween. If you are on the Old Calendar we commemorate St. Luke the Evangelist on October 31. On the other hand, if you are Protestant, well I suppose you can always commemorate the Reformation.