From Occult ABC, by Kurt Koch. Pp 87, 88. Kregel Publications. I highly recommend this book. Kregel keeps it in print. Used by permission for review.
The article that follows will undoubtedly upset some religious people. The Catholic church in Europe keeps the Feast of All Saints each year on November 1. Devout people bring flowers and place them on the graves of their former relatives and friends. In some places they put lighted candles in their windows on the eve of November 1, to "help lost souls find their way" as they charmingly put it.
The same Festival is celebrated in the USA, but in a different way. Hallowe'en is more like a European carnival than an act of remembrance. The Americans hold Hallowe'en parties with fancy dress, masks, and plenty of alcohol. A little example will illustrate how seriously they take it.
Ex 79 I was giving a series of evangelistic talks in a church in Milwaukee. The pastor of the church had invited a colleague. The other pastor refused the invitation. He had been invited to a Hallowe'en party. The fancy dress party was more important to him than the gospel.
All Saints' Day and Hallowe'en originated in a pagan festival. Before the days of Christianity, the Druids in England (priests of a Celtic race) had the idea that people needed to be cleansed after they had died. The soul of the departed was transferred by magic to the body of an animal. During the night of October 31, the enchanted souls were freed by the Druid god, Samhain, and taken together into the Druid heaven.
This Druid festival was always accompanied by animal and sometimes human sacrifices and linked with all kinds of magid.
In spite of the coming of Christianity, this pagan festival continued to be kept in England until the sixth century. Gregory the Great (A.D. 540-604) advised the Archbishop of Canterbury to retain the hitherto Druid sacrifices and celebrate them in honor of the Christian saints.
This is one example of the Catholic policy of assimilation, and has parallels on many mission fields. In the summer of 1975, I was visiting a Catholic church in Bogota, Colombia, where I was astonished to find masks of Indian gods on the walls. The guide explained that the Spaniards had used these Indian gods to entice the Incas into the Christian church. In the light of Bible teaching, it is incredible that anyone should try to lead people to the living God with the aid of the demons.
To return to the Druid festival, English settlers brought these customs to America. There the festival enjoys widespread popularity, because it gives people an opportunity for a holiday.
In Germany, the association of All Saints' Day with the pagan Druid festival has long since disappeared. Only the religious custom has remained, and it is very popular among Catholic people. As long as the decoration of graves is only an expression of reverence for the departed, the custom can remain. The other custom of lighting candles to show lost souls the way is superstition. What counts in eternity is whether our lives have been lived for Christ or not. There is nothing we can do to alter the fate of the departed, however near and dear they are to us. Neither in the Old Testament nor the New is there any text which tells us to pray for the dead. In this connection, it may be added that masses for the dead, which were also introduced by Gregory the Great, are doctrinally wrong and superstitious.