The Bulgarian Orthodox Church Metropolitan of Varna, Yoan, made a call on October 31 against the growing popularity of Halloween in the country, urging that it not become “part of the Bulgarian soul”.
Yoan, who became head of the church in Varna in December 2013, called on Bulgaria’s children and young people to abide in the “pure and holy Orthodox faith”.
Halloween has become increasingly widespread in Bulgaria in recent years, with children emulating American practices such as trick and treat, the carving of pumpkins and the donning of macabre costumes.
Local media reports on October 31 said that it was outgunning traditional celebrations such as the Day of the Enlighteners on November 1.
Yoan, in a lengthy statement, traced the history of Halloween from medieval English practice that arose around the Roman Catholic observation of All Hallow’s Eve.
He noted that in Rome, Pope Boniface IV in 609 and Pope Gregory III (731-741) had moved the day, on which all saints are venerated, to November 1, to overcome Celtic pagan traditions rooted in Western Europe, Britain and Ireland, maintained by Druids – Celtic priests and magicians.
“Obviously, the date and contents of Halloween are of old and frankly pagan origin,” Metropolitan Yoan said.
Before Christmas, the Celts had celebrated their new year, Samhain, on the night of October 31 to November 1. They marked the end of the world (summer) and the beginning of the dark (winter) part of the year.
“This was the time, as they believed, when between the netherworld and the world of the living boundaries are blurred. Consequently, the living could go into the next dimension, and from there out in the world invaded the dead heroes, mythical characters and many ‘gods’ and ‘goddesses’,” Yoan said.
The night was associated with the strange and often terrifying events that were told in Celtic myths and legends.
Today, neo-pagans, Druids and other religious communities continued to celebrate Samhain, he said.
He quoted the Book of Leviticus, in which the Lord charges through Moses that the Jewish people should not bow their hearts to pagan beliefs and practices, to not be influenced by Egyptian, Canaanite or any other idolatory.
Yoan quoted the Christian bible story of Lazarus, which according to the story saw Lazarus raised from the dead by Jesus. “In it we see that the transition between the world of the living and the world of the dead is impossible.”
While the gospel was the good news of Jesus’s victory over sin and death, Halloween represented the apotheosis of decay and death, which is presented in all its ugliness and hopelessness, Yoan said.
“Halloween deprives a man of his divine idea of striving for transformation of the hope of eternal and blessed life with God and His saints.
“Halloween is especially unacceptable to Orthodox consciousness because it offers children and adults a direct meeting with demons – subcelestial spirits of malice, which the Scripture says seek any means to destroy people,” Yoan said.
This pseudo-holiday masqueraded as a harmless and fun game, and hence was the biggest threat to our children, Yoan said, singling out “trick or treat” as teaching children that it was not a sin – or even fun – to do mischief to neighbours if they did not give them sweets.
“The demonic nature of Halloween is evident from the fact that the deceased are presented as spirits who cannot find peace and are ready to scare the living and do harm to them.”
Yoan said that he noted with alarm that Halloween would be celebrated in some schools in his diocese.
“This ‘holiday’ is actually the worship of evil and death.”
“Let us remember that on November 1, Bulgaria commemorates the Day of National Enlighteners who bequeathed us the love of the Holy Orthodoxy, love of country, love of God and neighbour, not foreign-generated affection for the devil and his retinue.”
Metropolitan Yoan added that November 1 was also, for the Orthodox Christian church, All Souls Day, on which the dead were remembered.
(Photo by Bev Lloyd-Roberts LRPS)