Should a Christian observe this celebration?
Should we encourage or even allow our children to participate in the celebration of Halloween? After all, what harm is there in them enjoying a ‘trick or treat’ amongst the local neighbours?
The Origin of Halloween
The origin of Halloween dates back at least to the ancient Celts living in Ireland thousands of years ago. The article associated with Halloween in the Encyclopaedia Britannica states:
“In ancient Britain and Ireland, the Celtic festival of Samhain eve was observed on October 31, at the end of summer. This date was also the eve of the new year in both Celtic and Anglo-Saxon times and was the occasion for one of the ancient fire festivals when huge bonfires were set on hilltops to frighten away evil spirits. The date was connected with the return of herds from pasture, and laws and land tenures were renewed. The souls of the dead were supposed to revisit their homes on this day, and the autumnal festival acquired sinister significance, with ghosts, witches, hobgoblins, black cats, fairies, and demons of all kinds said to be roaming about. It was the time to placate the supernatural powers controlling the processes of nature. In addition, Halloween was thought to be the most favourable time for divinations concerning marriage, luck, health, and death. It was the only day on which the help of the devil was invoked for such purposes.
“The pagan observances influenced the Christian festival of All Hallows' Eve, celebrated on the same date. Gradually, Halloween became a secular observance, and many customs and practices developed. In Scotland young people assembled for games to ascertain which of them would marry during the year and in what order the marriages would occur. Many Halloween customs have become games played by children”
The celebration today is a night of glowing jack-o-lanterns, tricks or treats, masks, and dressing-up in costumes. It is a night of story-telling—mainly telling chilling ghost stories by a fire. To understand the celebration a little better, some back-ground to these facets of the celebration would be appropriate.
The last day of October was the last day of the year for the Irish. The Druids, Celtic nature-worshippers, of Ireland believed that the spirits of the dead were revisiting their homes before the start of the New Year on 1st November. Some hundreds of years before the time of Christ, the Druids carried with them on them that evening a lantern to light their way on the road. On this particular night, they slung over their shoulder a lamp made from a hollowed out turnip, with a scary face carved into it to intimidate and frighten away spirits or demons that might otherwise lead one astray.
When the Irish went to America to flee the potato famine, they took this practice with them, but found that the native pumpkin was easier to carve and hollow out.
Trick or Treat
The Celtic festival of Samhain festival was a “Festival of the Dead,” which honored Samhain (reputedly god of the dead), plus the wicked spirits. On Samhain Eve, Samhain would call the spirits of the wicked—who had died during the last year and who, being wicked, had been condemned to inhabit bodies of animals—to come out of their host animals and to re-visit their old homes. Families were to leave a good fire for them. Affectionate kinsfolk comforted and cheered them in kitchen and parlour. However, if acceptable food and shelter were not provided, these evil spirits would cast spells, cause havoc and terror, and haunt and torment those who lived. This is the earliest form of “Trick or Treat.”
Masks and Dressing up.
During the Samhain night of ritual, they sacrificed animals (and sometimes humans) and dressed up in the skins of the animals. They also wore hideous masks and costumes to disguise themselves from the evil spirits.
Is Halloween Christian?
This is a question we must ask ourselves if we are endeavouring to follow Christ, and are trying to persuade our children that there are some things in life that are best avoided by Christians. Is this one of them? Or can we allow the children freedom to celebrate on 31st October with all their friends and mates?
Despite its pagan origin, Halloween carries a Christian nametag. The Roman Catholic Church set aside the first day of November to honour all the saints who had no special days of their own. This day provided professing Christians an alternative to the pagan ceremonies with which they had been familiar, and it was known as All Saints' Day. Since the “saints” were “hallowed” people, it was also known as “All Hallows Day.” The previous evening was called All Hallows Eve. Eventually, this became abbreviated to “Hallows Eve”, and to “Hallowe’en” from which the present word Halloween is derived.
As a “Christianized” pagan-worship celebration, the cults could continue in it only if the cult called itself "christian"—by this, massive numbers of converts could be claimed for the Roman (Catholic) Church.
But, as happened with Christmas and Easter, the celebrations continued in their earlier pagan form with very little change.
So despite having a name of Christian origin, it continues in its pagan format. Not one of the activities associated with Halloween today can be traced to a Bible narrative or instruction.
Halloween and the Occult
Instead of being Christian, the celebration of Halloween continues to promote occult worship—adoration of witches, ghosts, evil spirits, demons, fairies and frightening scary tales and happenings. Halloween has duped well-intentioned people into believing that it is a harmless activity. But to teach our children to imitate the practice of witches and demon-worship is not consistent with learning about Jesus Christ. Nor should we dismiss as harmless the vandalism that occurs in many communities at this time.
Halloween and the Christian
It has often been argued by Christians that the origin of Halloween has no significance to its celebration today. It might have been evil and a time of fear and dread when celebrated as Samhain, but today we have ‘moved on’ and it is simply a time of letting our imaginations run free in the world of fantasy. In our culture, Halloween has simply allowed us to look at what frightens us—spine-chilling stories, repulsive face masks and face painting—to experience it, to laugh at it, and to come through it. It has given the opportunity for communities to share some time together—to go from door to door to be given treats, or to be admired for our ghostly dressing up.
It is easy to be swayed by such a line of argument. But is it real? What does the Bible have to say on the matter of Halloween?
Halloween and the Bible
Not surprisingly, the Bible doesn’t mention the word ‘Halloween’, nor does it mention celebrating ‘All Hallows Eve’ or ‘All Saints Day’. These are, after all, mere Christian inventions that were pagan celebrations ‘gift-wrapped’ in Christian terminology so that the pagan feasts should remain in place in order to attract those people who were seduced by them.
But the Bible does have a strong message about the underlying principles of Halloween and its occult undertones and associations.
“When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God.” Deuteronomy 18:9–13
The Bible makes it clear that we simply can’t dress up a pagan festival by calling it another name, and expect it to satisfy God. The Israelites tried this trick when in the wilderness. The narrative relates how their deputy-leader Aaron asked the people to pass to him all the gold jewellery that they had acquired from the Egyptians, and from this he moulded a golden calf. Now the people were familiar with this calf for it was a favourite and powerful god of the Egyptians—Apis, the Bull—the god of fertility.
“He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt." When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, "Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD.”
“So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” Exodus 32:4–6
It is important to note exactly what Aaron had done—he had taken a pagan object from Egypt, wrapped in a new appearance by erecting God’s altar in front of it, and had celebrated a feast.
Was God pleased? Allow the narrative to explain the situation.
“Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.'
"I have seen these people," the LORD said to Moses, "and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them.” Exodus 32:7–10
Fortunately Moses interceded for the people, and they were not destroyed. Window-dressing a pagan celebration was totalling unacceptable to God.
“Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places. You must not worship the LORD your God in their way.”
“But”, you might respond, “these statements have each been taken from the Old Testament, and we live under the New Testament”. True, but do we honour a God who keeps changing what He wants, or do we honour an unchanging God, whose standards are unwavering? The New Testament expresses the same requirements.
“The sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons.” 1 Corinthians 10:20,21
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” Titus 2:11,12
Halloween and the Parent
As a parent, we have responsibility for the correct training of our children. To teach our children to imitate the practices of witches and the occult is dangerous.
The Bible states an important, vital principle:
“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Jesus said to his disciples,
“But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2
The apostle Peter had a message that is still applicable in our own day.
“For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do--living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” 1 Peter 4:3–5
Let us therefore stand firmly against the celebration of Halloween.