What is the real history of Halloween? | Moment's Notice

By Maria Montalvo | Oct 29, 2016

In just a few days, we can pretend to be someone completely different. A superhero, a movie star, an historical figure, an extra-terrestrial. The scariest monster, witch or zombie. Maybe a vegetable. Or a bumblebee.

Becoming something or someone else is the best part of Halloween.

In eighth-grade, I decided I needed a new identity, something that projected the strength and intensity I thought I lacked. I doubt my 13-year-old brain understood that I was engaging in reinterpretation of the self, and I unsuccessfully attempted to have my middle-school friends call me by a different name.

However, once I moved across the country in high school, the transformation was just a matter of a new introduction. I created a present that was not based on the reality of the past, my own private revisionism.

Over time, facts change because of the who and how behind the retelling. For example, in the next King James version of the Bible, the reference to the sign of the beast, or the devil’s number, as it has been known, will be noted as 6616, not 666.

Apparently, 666 was a typo.

This new information came to light after decades of painstaking study of the “Loggia Fragments” by archaeologists at Oxford. In the late 1800s, two archaeologists started to dig into Egyptian sand dunes, which turned out to be an ancient garbage dump.

In the very first dune, they found fragments of papers that included stories and relics from the first two centuries A.D. History had, literally, been thrown away.

They also found a very different telling of the Trojan War – one in which the Greeks retreated – and many “lost sayings of Jesus” that scholars accept as authentic, but not included in the Bible. They included “love hideth a multitude of sins” and to “not render evil for evil, or railing for railing, or fist for fist, or curse for curse.”

In the late 1980s, a historian by the name of Woodward wrote he saw the world existing in the “Age of Reinterpretation,” a time when the truth is continually revised by those in power and unwilling to write a historical record that conflicts with personal beliefs, despite the facts.

Conspiracy theories about the moon landing, a menagerie of faked deaths and control of the New World Order (so brilliantly portrayed in “The Simpsons”) seem to imply our questioning of the facts, but perhaps not the most effective way to keep the truth on the record.

Halloween has even instigated disagreements over its origin.

Most of the stories behind why we dress up to celebrate the spooky each year point to a pagan festival marking the beginning of winter (the darker half of the year) being co-opted by Christian custom.

Ancient Celts believed that during the transition from fall to winter, the souls of the dead could come into our world. Originally, masks were a disguise from the departed who may have wanted vengeance, and later an incentive to collect soul bread in exchange for prayers for the dead.

But here is the kicker to the pagan to Christian narrative: All Saints’ Day was originally held on May 1, not in November, and many scholars think it developed as a separate Christian holiday.

A few people still know me by the name I assumed at 13, and that reinterpretation certainly carried different facets of my personality, and a different way to tell my story.

Maybe that is why I like Halloween, regardless of how it got started.


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