The Religious Gamble On The Dead

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There are many different religious observances across the world that rival even the more well established pagan and traditional roots of the holiday.

In these secular times the religious basis of Halloween is mostly overlooked. The pagan Samhain festival at the end of the summer in Celtic Ireland, subsumed by Christianity as it expanded its influence across Europe, no more observed these days by the vast majority of people than the remembrance of martyrs and saints that was imposed over the top of it. However the Christian celebration of All Hallow’s Eve, All Hallow’s (Saints) Day and All Souls Day are continued by the faithful.

All Hallow’s Eve

• The Religious believe souls belong to god
• Many people think they’re our souls
• Traditions remain mobile betting on acceptability

The fact that their three day festival that remembers the dead martyrs, saints and dearly departed loved ones or relatives just happened to start on precisely the same day as a festival everyone was already celebrating at first glance appears to be the sort of good fortune one would wish to enjoy at the tables of an online casino in the UK. Unfortunately this is a bit of a fix since until 837AD it was actually held in the middle of summer.

When the pope of the time decided to change the date of remembering the dead saints, martyrs, etc. so it just happened to fall on the same date as Samhain, he was following the standard operating procedure of the Christian faith. Take whatever crazy weird festival people are already celebrating and then shuffle the biblical stories enough so that they can carry on with the same parties in the same place but just have a reason for them the religious approve of.

We each of us here may have wagered on a long shot or two in our time, and we will all be able to calculate roughly in our heads the odds on Jesus just happening to be born on the same day as every midwinter festival in Europe, and then getting himself killed on the same day as every spring fertility festival in Europe. Those are pretty long odds, right? Some might say unfeasibly long. Thankfully the Christian hijacking of pre-existing pagan holidays is a matter of record not debate.

Bones Of The Holy

With a new excuse for the same old party the Christian slant on the remembrance of the dead was centered around the connection between those us still walking, talking and breathing, and the souls of those who have already shuffled off this mortal coil. The idea that the vast majority of us wouldn’t necessarily go straight to heaven or hell but god’s waiting room known as Purgatory was used to heavily influence people’s beliefs and behavior.

On the night of All Hallow’s Eve a vigil for the dead would be observed with prayers and sometimes fasting, with various incarnations of this across Europe. In France bowls of milk would be left by the graves of loved ones at which families would pray, in Italy large meals were left for the visiting spirits of the departed and in Spain a pastry called the “bones of the holy” was left on the graves of those who had already kicked the bucket.

All Hallow’s Day featured the mandatory attendance at Church and the attempt not to do any servile work, which must have been slightly tricky given it was also a day of feasting and someone somewhere must have been doing the cooking. Whilst officially dedicated to the memory of the saints of the church, the observance of this was, and still is, in many countries, mixed with the more well established traditional celebrations that just happened to be on the same day as the one the pope chose.

Gambling news that there was something in it for them, or rather the souls of people they knew who had died, would win people over, the Christians also introduced all Souls Day following on the next morning from All Saint’s Day. This was specifically a festival to pray for your dead relatives and by doing so help them escape purgatory and ascend to somewhere more hospitable. Although if you’d feasted enough on the day before most prayers were probably for indigestion tablets and hangover cures.

The Day Of The Dead

Around the world there are various countries that have retained a more direct approach to the festival as celebrated on the 1st of November, calling it simply “The Day Of The Dead”. In numerous European countries one need not be especially religious to make the effort to light a candle at, or place flowers upon, the graves of respected family members now long gone. In Latin America however they take it to a whole different level.

Whilst you might spend November 1st recovering from playing in the Gold Rush Halloween Special on the online gambling site in the UK that is Unibet, the tradition of flying kites is popular in Guatemala, Ecuador has a remarkable selection of appropriate delicacies, and in Brazil they hold it on the following day making it a public holiday. Boliva has the “Day Of The Skulls” in La Paz but it is perhaps in Haiti where the schizophrenia twixt old traditions and Christian influence is most notable.

The Catholic faith is well established in Haiti but the pre-existing voodoo traditions of the islanders have been mixed with the religious observances from Rome so it will not be uncommon for people to both attend church services and all night celebrations at which drumming would attempt to awaken Baron Samedi, the Loa of the dead, and his impish helpers the Gede. This is perhaps the most stark example of artificial the imposition of Christian doctrine over local belief being accepted, but only in a placatory manner.

Today Halloween is rarely associated with religion at all in the minds of most of us. The supernatural cultural identifiers of thousands of years still dominating the grudgingly accepted Christian absorbsion means that the average chap on the street is more likely to take part in internet gambling in the UK than go to church on All Saint’s Day, and perhaps that, with it’s mystical future possibility connotations harks back to perhaps the real spirit of Halloween.

~ Read more about Halloween ~

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