Halloween, celebrate or not?

Exactly 500 years ago, on Halloween, he made an attempt to change the current beliefs of the world. What was going on you ask? It all began with the history of Halloween.

I was recently asked if I would write a blog about Halloween and my thoughts about the celebration. This is my answer – I include much of the history of Halloween and then I share my personal story at the end. I have bolded the ideas I find relate to home and family.

The evolution of this community celebrated day has many religious and symbolic meanings. 1500 years before the Celts who lived in Northwestern Europe celebrated “Samhain” meaning Summer’s End on October 31, because their New Year was on November 1st. They celebrated the end of harvest, end of the season. They believed that ghosts of the dead returned to earth damaging homes and causing trouble with relationships. They would build large bonfires, burn portions of their crops and possibly offered sacrifices. After the ceremony led by the Druids, the Celtic priests, they would take home the hot coals from the bonfire and light their hearth fires, believing their home would now be protected from evil spirits. [if you attended the Biblical Tabernacle at BYU this last month – this may sound very familiar to you]

The Roman’s who conquered the Celts also celebrated the fall harvest. Their celebration was on November 1st and centered around Pomona, the Goddess of the harvest, of love and fertility.

When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in A.D. 380 they decided not to ban the celebrations of Pomona and Samhain, but chose to assimilate them into their own Christian celebrations. They celebrated “All Souls Day” on October 31st and “All Saints Day” on November 1st. “All Souls Day was a day to remember and pray for the dead and “All Saints Day was to remember and pray to the Saints. England began calling this day, “All Hallow’s Day” and later “All Souls Day” changed to “All Hallow’s Eve” which later became “Halloween.”

Years later, Martin Luther, who didn’t agree with the church on many different issues, including on how someone became a saint. He believed that a person became a saint through the grace of God, not just his actions and those running the church. On All Hallow’s Eve, October 31st, 1517, exactly 500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 points against the church on the doors of the All Saint’s Church in Wittenburg. He must have chosen that day because of “All Saint’s Day.” 

Soon after the church split into the Catholic and Protestant religions. Many Protestant countries banned the celebrations because they viewed it as a Catholic celebration. England, a Protestant country, instead, celebrated Guy Fawkes Day on Nov 5. Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Protestant-sympathetic Parliament in 1605. They would reenact Fawkes’ punishment by parading a scarecrow and other political figures through the street. Boys would dress up in costume and beg for coal to burn the scarecrows and play tricks not their neighbors.

In America, Puritan colonies banned the celebration, but other colonies celebrated All Souls Day and All Saints Day. After The Revolution Halloween evolved into a community event rather than a religious one combining different traditions, including harvest and carnival ideas like bobbing for apple and carving pumpkins on October 31st and November 1st.

In the 1900’s magazines and candy shops promoted the idea of giving out candy to those who wanted to play tricks. Soon department stores promoted decorations and costumes.

Today, you see parents parading their children in costume from home to home asking for treats. It is a day filled with picture taking and games and lately the eating of chili and cornbread. Halloween continues to evolve.

How do you celebrate Halloween?

On a personal note, I have jumped around. I started out celebrating and dressing up my children. Then a trusted friend taught me that Halloween was a pagan holiday and should not be celebrated. So I stopped. My older children will tell you of how we would go down to the basement and turn out all the lights and watch movies, like Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang and Lady Hawk. We then moved to the city and had many friends in our ward that decorated their homes, so beautifully, with fall decorations and pumpkins. I liked these families and yet I felt I should worry about them. Basically, this led me to great confusion and much study on the subject. My conclusion is still evolving just like the celebration itself. Today, I decorate my home with autumn colors and pumpkins and yes, we have candy available for the neighborhood kids. We eat chili and cornbread and we talk and discuss how Martin Luther played a large role in bringing about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Reflecting Octopus

Did you know that octopuses can change their color to match their environment? How they change is most interesting. The outer layer of their skin is made up of millions of small pigment sacs called chromatophores. Nerves within his eyes sense the brightness of the light and contract or expand these sacs. When expanded they give the octopus a dark brown color. When contracted the underlying reflective leucophores are exposed reflecting whatever color of light is most abundant. If the octopus is swimming in an algae-covered pool it will reflect the green color. The octopus’s ability to change color is really nothing more than a side effect of an ability to detect changes in light which adjust its skin to become more or less reflective.

We have the same opportunity to reflect more or less of the influences around us. What are you reflecting away from you? What are you not reflecting enough?

Reflection is to pause

As I have been preparing for my advanced constellation class I came across this statement in the Lecture’s on Faith, lecture seven.

It surely will not be required of us to prove that [faith] is the principle upon which all eternity has acted and will act; for every reflecting mind must know that it is by reason of this power that all the hosts of heaven perform their works of wonder, majesty, and glory.

“Every reflecting mind” stood out to me. What is a reflecting mind? John Maxwell, who speaks on leadership defined reflection as, “Reflection turns experience into insight.” and “Reflection is the pause that gives a person perspective.”

I want to be insightful and gain perspective. So “how” do I reflect?

This thought took me on a journey in my mind. The first thought was the word “ponder.” How often do I ponder on what I study or learn or the people I’ve met. If God orchestrates our lives and the people we meet are no accident then why not ponder and reflect on those experiences to gain insight and possibly even direction or the “next step?” And, of course, this thought lead me to a commitment – to reflect every day before I went to bed. But that commitment fell short because I kept falling asleep so now I reflect every morning.

I have chosen to use the formula Kevin Hall uses in his book, “Aspire.” I reflect on 4 things:

  1. People who help me
  2. Actions I’ve taken on opportunities
  3. Thoughts that help me create meaning or understanding
  4. Happiness moments – random acts of kindness, God’ tender mercies

All of which help me stay on PATH! 🙂

How do you Reflect and Ponder?

Columbus Day, celebrate or not?

Monument to Christopher Columbus (by Odoardo Tabacchi, 1892), Santa Margherita Ligure, Liguria, Italy

This week, on the 12th, we celebrate the 575th year of Columbus discovering America. There is much buzz and degrading of his character. So much so that Columbus day is hardly even looked at or noticed any more. Some States have decided to change it to “Indigenous People” day. This subject has given me much to ponder on.

My 6th-grade teacher taught me that Columbus wasn’t a great man and that he really wasn’t the one who discovered America. I trusted her and therefore believed her. It wasn’t until I was in a book club where we read the book “Christopher Columbus, an LDS Perspective” that I changed my belief.

In this book, they show how he was led at a specific time, how God was ready to have others join this “hidden land.” How Christopher followed the spirit and had the “prince of American” Angle Moroni help him. My favorite story was when he had forgotten his purpose and had fallen. He finds himself alone on the ship one day and calls upon the Lord for forgiveness, receives a special spiritual experience. Ends up being rescued and returns home to spend the rest of his life writing the “Book of Prophesy.”

How do you celebrate Columbus Day? What are your traditions?

Here are some quotations from these two books. I’ll let you decide whether or not he was called of God and if we should not remember him each year.

The Eternal God our Lord gives to all those who walk in his path victory over things that seem impossible. ~ Christopher Columbus, Book of Prophesy

“At this time I have seen and put in study to look into all the Scriptures…which our Lord opened to my understanding (I could sense his hand upon me), so that it became clear to me that it was feasible to navigate from here to the Indies and he gave me the will to execute the idea… No one should be afraid to take on any enterprise in the name of our Savior, if it is right and if the purpose is purely for his holy service… The working out of all things was entrusted by our Lord to each person…in conformity with his sovereign will…” ~ Columbus. Book of Prophecies. Fols. 4,5 rvs.,6.

“The temple work for the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence and other founding fathers has been done.  All these appeared to Wilford Woodruff when he was President of the St. George Temple.  President George Washington was ordained a High Priest at that time.  You will also be interested to know that according to Wilford Woodruff’s journal, John Wesley, Benjamin Franklin, and Christopher Columbus were also ordained High Priests at the time.  When one casts doubt upon the character of these noble sons of God, I believe he or she will have to answer to the God of heaven for it.” Ezra Taft Benson (Christopher Columbus, an LDS Perspective, pg. 72)

Rejoice Over Your Flaws!

A distressed man came to a trusted friend and said,

Stairs of a tight mountain path

“I felt confident in my journey last year, but this year I’ve noticed my flaws and imperfections in my daily life and fear I’ll not be successful in my journey.”

His friend smiled and said, “Rejoice!”

Startled, he questioned his friend as to why he was happy about his confession.

In 1 Nephi 8 we learn about the “strait and narrow” path. The word “strait” means “narrow” or “restricted” so you could say that is a “narrow and narrow” path or “narrow and narrowing” path. As we receive more from the Holy Ghost the path gets narrower and narrower.

This is great news! As we begin to notice flaws that were unnoticed before is evidence that we are now closer to the Spirit than before. As we draw closer and closer to God the “light” shines much brighter on the path and we notice smaller and smaller things. This is a “sign” that you are doing better!

Once the man understood this he took a deep breath of relief and smiled. He thanked his friend and continued on his journey rejoicing. Knowledge is power! He went on to be very effective in leading others to Christ. (I learned this story from David J. Ridges in “Your Study of the Book of Mormon Made Easier”)

What flaws in your life are you noticing? Rejoice!

Join us today for our Table Talk Discussion #38 where we’ll talk about this story and share other ways to Rejoice.

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