Xmas has been celebrated across thousands of years by many different cultures, even if they didn’t all call it the same thing. While Halloween may not be as old or as wide-spread, they share so many elements that even the most seasoned visitors would find it confusing.
Many people might dispute this fact, but both holidays were considered New Year celebrations in their respective times. The idea of celebrating the Winter Solstice is much older than 2,000 years. Actually, as with Halloween, no one knows exactly when people started celebrating it. The real difference, though, is when, and, therefore, why, these holidays were celebrated.
For Xmas, or the Winter Solstice, people kept a watchful eye on the constellations and the sun. In certain places on Earth, starting at the Winter Solstice, the Sun appears to disappear, or, (to the more dramatic), die, because it didn’t rise above the horizon. So, for 3 or 4 days, the god of the sun, (whichever god that may be at the time), is dead. He/She is “resurrected” on the “25th of December”, symbolized by the, suddenly visible, Sun in the sky.
For Halloween, people celebrated a successful harvest, and they did so at the end of summer. The ancient Celtics had only 2 seasons: Samhain and Bealtaine, also known as Death and Life, (even though, in Modern Irish, Samhain only means November and Bealtaine means May). Samhain, basically, was a celebration of the fact that they would make it through the season of Death. The only real difference between the two holidays, here, is that Halloween is when the dark is just beginning, while Xmas is when the light is starting to take over.
Now, we already know that ghosts are a big part of Halloween. However, people may not know that it was also customary to tell ghost stories during Xmas parties. It’s totally true. Don’t believe me? Let me remind of a pretty well known Xmas ghost story called, “A Christmas Carol”, by Charles Dickens. That has plenty of ghosts in it, Jacob Marley, for one. It, also, has “The Ghost of Christmas Future”, which is, usually, depicted as a bony, cloaked figure, e.g., Death. Doing a double take yet? Those weren’t the only ones. Dickens wrote others, as well as many other authors. It stands to reason when you think about it. Winter was cold and bleak, and the nights were longer during that time of the year. I would be surprised if they didn’t invent spooky stories. Dickens’ story is, obviously, symbolic: it’s, clearly, indicative of the relationship between Light and Dark; it mirrors the pattern of resurrection that I described in the previous paragraph.
Both holidays have things like candy, the use of color, and creature building. The candy doesn’t really need an explanation, except Xmas uses mostly Candy Canes and chocolate and Halloween has, pretty much, everything known to man. As for the colors, both holidays have strong ties to them. It’s true that the colors aren’t the same, but neither holiday would be the same without them. Halloween, typically, has black, orange, and purple, while Xmas has red, green, and white. They seem to, almost, contrast each other, but that’s not my point. Sure, you could say that other holidays have colors to them, but do they? Not like these two holidays. Does Thankgsiving have specific colors? Not really.
Lastly, both holidays involve some kind of figure building when the conditions are right. During Fall and Halloween, people build scarecrows. During Winter and Xmas, they build Snowmen. The meanings are completely different, but that’s okay. The scarecrow has always been a part of the harvest, as is Halloween. However, the snowman is more of a fun activity than anything else.
I’m sure we could go on about this forever, but that’s more than enough to make my point. Obviously, there are many similarities between the two, but I still say Halloween is the better holiday. It’s not just the ghost stories, despite the fact that both holidays have them. It’s the spookiness that hangs in the air. Keep haunting….