Skip to comments.Hallowed or Harmful? - A Christian perspective on Halloween
Posted on 10/28/2003 8:33:25 PM PST by yonif
Hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, the Celts, inhabitants of Britain and Ireland, observed a festival on October 31.
Unlike modern-day Halloween, theirs was no childrens holiday. The Celts and their priests, the Druids, celebrated Samhain, a festival that marked the eve of the Celtic New Year, which began on November 1.
The fall harvest was complete and the winter loomed ahead. The Celts believed the power of the sun was fading. For the next several months, darkness would prevail.
The Celts believed that during Samhain the veil separating the living from the dead was at its thinnest. They believed that on the evening of October 31 evil spirits and the souls of the dead passed through the barrier and entered the world of the living. Departed family members would revisit their earthly homes.
The thought was frightening and exciting!
The Celts believed these spirits and dead souls could torment the living. Crops might be destroyed, babies stolen, farm animals killed. But this was also an opportunity to commune with the spirits and divine the future. The devil, the lord of darkness, was ordinarily feared, but during Samhain, his power would be called on to foretell the future.
The Druids were charged with appeasing the goblins and preventing harm to the people. Huge Samhain bonfires were lit to guide the way of the spirits. Various sacrifices including human were performed to assure a good year.
Several ancient authors commented on the gory religious rites of the Druids.
It is believed that, like many pagan cultures around the world, the Celts left food out for the spirits, hoping that a treat would prevent an evil trick.
Centuries later, descendants of the Celts continued to observe the Samhain festival by dressing as evil spirits. They roamed from house to house demanding food in exchange for the spirits leaving the home unharmed. They carved demon faces in hollowed-out turnips and lighted them with candles.
That night, they also practiced many customs designed to divine the future. Young people roasted nuts in Samhain fires to see which would crack first and tell them who they would marry. The person who retrieved the apple by his mouth from a tub of water was assured of a lucky year. Obviously, some of these customs (like apple bobbing) have remained with us, strictly as amusement. When Christianity began to spread through Europe in the third and fourth centuries, the pagan temples were torn down. But pagan worship never completely disappeared. The festival of Samhain remained a primary pagan festival.
Belief in spirits may have waned, but many of the old Samhain traditions continued to be practiced especially by the children. Primarily in Ireland, children dressed as spirits went from house to house demanding a treat. If they received none, they performed an unwelcome trick. They were play-acting the part of evil spirits that had to be appeased, just as in the old Samhain festival the people believed they really did have to appease spirits.
In the 700s, the Church decided to combat this festival by replacing it with a celebration of the Lord of life. Instead of honoring evil spirits and the souls of the dead, the Church chose to recognize the saints or hallowed ones who had lived godly lives. The Church seemed to be saying, All right, if you must have a day to celebrate the dead, then celebrate those who died and are now with the Lord.
So November 1 came to be called All Saints Day, also called All Hallows Day. The evening before was called All Hallows Evening. From that, we get the modern name of Halloween.
But pagan customs continued. And with the growth of witchcraft in the Middle Ages, additional symbols became associated with Halloween black cats, witches, bats, and skulls.
Irish immigrants in the mid-1800s brought to America the Halloween customs were familiar with costumes, trick-or-treat, carved Jack-o-lanterns, etc. The Jack-o-lantern is simply an American version of the hollowed-out turnip, mentioned earlier. The pumpkin did not grow in Ireland, but in Britain. Unfortunately, they also brought tricks with them which often involved breaking windows and over-turning sheds and outhouses.
Even though the practice of actually performing a trick if no treat is given has faded, the custom of children going trick-or-treating has become an established American tradition. Only in recent years have parents hesitated to send their children into the streets because of the increased danger of accidents, poisoned food, and menacing strangers.
Nonetheless, despite the dangers associated with trick-or-treating, Halloween is celebrated more than ever. In fact, the night is the second most popular party night of the year (after December 31) for baby-boomer adults. Many adults look at it as the one night of the year they can dress up and act foolish.
But while children and adults innocently imitate ancient Celtic customs, darker practices persist. Witches and Satanists still consider Halloween to be one of the strongest times during the year to cast a spell. On Halloween, most witchcraft practitioners participate in a ritual called drawing down the moon. In this, the chief witch of the coven (group of witches) becomes, they believe, a channel for the moon goddess. During this ritual, the participants, both male and female, are sky-clad that is, naked.
Stonehenge, the mysterious ancient stone formation in England, is often the site for bizarre gatherings of the occultists, some of whom believe they are modern-day Druids. Many people believe that Stonehenge was a Druid religious site. And evidence persists that some Satanist and voodoo groups offer sacrifices usually animals, but possibly human babies.
Witches and Satanists are, of course, a small minority. Few people who celebrate Halloween these days ever think about the darkness that underlies most Halloween practices.
A beaming child dressed in a black pointed hat and matching gown with a wart carefully drawn on her nose and trick-or-treat bag held tightly in her hand is hardly thinking of death or the spirits of departed relatives. Nor should she be.
Shes thinking of candy and fun. Shes glowing because of her delight in her special costume. And shes anticipating the adventure of her house-to-house pilgrimage.
Merchants also look forward to October 31. The sale of candy, costumes, decorations and party goods make Halloween one of the major retail seasons of the year.
Sure, no one can deny children or adults all the Halloween fun simply because of its unsavory history. Can there really be anything wrong with this lighthearted revelry?
Does the Bible have anything to say about celebrating Halloween?
In Corinth, meat that had been sacrificed to idols was sold in the market. People who bought it then ate it in honor of that particular pagan god. Speaking of his freedom to eat food that a pagan had dedicated to an idol, the apostle Paul said, Everything is permissible (1 Corinthians 10:23). After all, he didnt believe the pagan gods really existed.
If we apply Pauls statement to the celebration of Halloween, then one could argue that Christians can dress in ghostly costumes and practice the traditions that have been passed down from the ancient Celts. After all, the supernatural powers they tried to appease dont have power over those who belong to Christ.
The Bible says that Jesus destroyed the power of death when He went to the cross. By Jesus death and resurrection, anyone who gives his or her life to Jesus doesnt need to fear evil.
But Paul didnt stop with a statement of his freedom. He said, Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial (1 Corinthians 10:23).
It is in this light that Christians need to examine how to observe Halloween.
1. What may not hurt you may hurt others. Paul said that it wouldnt harm a Christian to eat meat sacrificed to an idol. After all, the pagan gods that the meat had been sacrificed to werent real gods. In the same light, he probably would say that Christians are not prohibited from dressing in costumes and going trick-or-treating or attending Halloween parties. After all, We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one (1 Corinthians 8:4).
But Paul went on to say that by doing what the believer was free in the Lord to do, the believer may be distressing another believer who doesnt realize he has this freedom. Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak (1 Corinthians 8:9). The weak ones would be those who still had problems with the idea of eating the food sacrificed to idols.
During Halloween, little children in particular are the weak ones. On TV, in movies, in school, and with their playmates, many children today are exposed to occult influences. We may be opening our children to these influences if we approve of these things in Halloween fun. We adults may be fully aware that we are only spoofing witches and ghosts, but the young may not be so sure.
If we have given our lives to Jesus Christ, then our eternal destiny is safe in the hands of the Almighty God. But thats not true of most people around us.
There is a valid reason for most people to fear a lord of death even if they dont take him seriously on Halloween. We who have found life in Jesus should be careful that our freedom doesnt keep others from finding that same eternal life.
2. Some permissible things may hinder your Christian growth. The Bible encourages us to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).
This one night of the year, most eyes are not fixed on Jesus but on a darker image. The Christians race of faith leads him to eternal life, to a joy that has no shadow. Should we really be focusing on the devil, witches, and other dark beings, even for one night?
3. God says, Dont imitate evil! 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 practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead (Deuteronomy 18:9-11).
If our children dress as witches and sorcerers, if we hang cardboard ghosts in our windows, if we entertain with tales of ghouls and haunted houses what are we doing but imitating that which is evil? We need to make it clear as Christians that witches and evil spirits are not funny and not harmless, even if the people in witch costumes are only play-acting.
As Christians, we have plenty of reason to celebrate! While the world around us focuses on activities honoring fear and death, we can celebrate the One who brings life.
The following ideas might help you celebrate October 31 in a way thats joyful for you and your family:
1. Light the night. Dont hide inside open up your yard to a big neighborhood party! On October 31, people come to our doors expecting to receive something. This is the perfect opportunity to give them Gods love! Be creative about decorating your yard with lights that attract the neighbors minister to them with prayer and the Word of God.
Most Christian bookstores carry small pamphlets about the Lord designed especially for children on Halloween. These can be taped to candy and dropped into each trick-or-treaters bag.
To find out more about this alternative, visit: http://www.lightthenight.net.
2. Celebrate All Saints Day. Protestants shy away from honoring saints. Their reluctance generally is based on a fear that the honor will cross the line into worship or prayer to saints. We are to worship and pray to no one but God.
However, there is good biblical basis for looking to those who have faithfully followed God in the past. Hebrews 11 has a roll call of believers who have set examples for us. But in his Letters to the Corinthians, Paul makes it abundantly clear that he and other saints are only servants men and women like ourselves who are following God. And it is God and God alone to whom we look in our worship and prayers.
But with nearly 2000 years of Church history, we can well remember many faithful believers whose lives can encourage us in our walk with the Lord. That can include not only famous figures from the Churchs history, but also the saints we have known personally people in our own family and our own church who are now with the Lord. While the Celts trembled at the thought of their departed kin returning on Samhain, we can celebrate Halloween and All Saints Day by joyfully recalling our own departed saints. (Christians from many Protestant traditions may want to recall that October 31 is also Reformation Day, celebrating Martin Luthers beginning the Reformation by posting his Ninety-five Theses on the church door.)
3. Have a different kind of party. You can have a fall harvest party, an All Saints Day party, or simply a costume party. Have children (and maybe adults, too) dress up as biblical characters and/or figures from Christian history. Or find some other positive theme. Some Christians plan a Fools for Christ party (see 1 Corinthians 4:10). This involves costumes and craziness, but none of the traditional symbols of death and witchcraft. Whatever you choose, avoid the usual Halloween symbols in decorations and activities. The way to celebrate the dead is by honoring Gods saints, already in heaven, part of the body of Christ that the living saints are also a part of.
4. Hold a Bible study on what God says about the occult and witchcraft. This might be especially good for teenagers, since they are possibly coming into frequent contact with influences of this type. There has been an amazing growth of witchcraft and Satanism in the U.S. in recent years. Some cultists are attracted especially to the ideas of tapping the powers of the universe and of controlling our own destinies.
5. Gather for a prayer and praise meeting. During this night when Satanists and witches covens meet to cast their spells and perform grotesque rituals, it seems appropriate for believers to gather to praise the one and only God.
Praise God for His victory over death, Satan, hell and all evil. (Recall Pauls words in Romans 16:20: The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.) And pray for all the people who dont know that Jesus Christ wants to give them peace with God and eternal life. Pray that Jesus will reveal Himself to their minds and spirits.
Whatever you choose to do on Halloween, use this biblical guideline as you make your plans: Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Halloweens earliest origins reflect a fear of a lord of death that was common among ancient pagan cultures.
However, despite mans advances in science and philosophy, death remains for many a troubling event that they cannot avoid.
The Bible says that we have a spirit that, unlike our physical body, endures beyond the grave. However, the Bible also says our spirit is subject to death as well. But God offers us eternal life for our spirits. How do we get it?
First, we must understand that we all will be held accountable for the choices we make. If we choose to ignore God, well face eternal separation death from Him (Romans 6:23, Hebrews 9:27).
Nothing we can do, no matter how good it may be, can make us good enough to have a relationship with God without Jesus Christ (Titus 3:5, Ephesians 2:8-9).
But God sent Jesus our Lord of Life to be the bridge back to right standing with God. Christs death on the cross paid the penalty that we faced for going our own way (Romans 5:8, 1 Peter 3:18).
If you want to receive the eternal life God offers, you must invite Jesus into your life to be your Lord and Savior (John 1:12, Revelation 3:20). Why not invite Jesus into your life right now? Pray this prayer:
Jesus, I ask You to come into my life. I want to turn from living my life under my own control. Come now and live Your life in me. Cleanse me from my sins. I receive You as my Lord and Savior. I will live for You all the days of my life. Amen.
If you prayed this prayer from your heart, you can have absolute assurance that you have eternal life.
Jesus said, I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life (John 5:24).
I say YUCK to Halloween.
Not to mention St. Valentine's Day.. or even Sunday.
Since the Druids left no written records of their own and all comments concerning them where written by their enemies I take these reports with a large grain of salt.
Well, if you're going for purism, you need to get rid of 'God' too by the same rationale. Don't forget Mother's day. It's just a commercial excuse to sell cards that most often takes the place of the day in the Church calender to celebrate motherhood.
By the way, once you take away the Christmas tree and the Easter egg, there still remain the days of the year on which Christ was born and died.
No one is arguing against Jesus being born on one particular day and dying on another.
The question is, which days? You don't actually think Jesus was born on Dec 25 and died on the first Sunday on or after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox( a different day each year), do you?
My objection to this mind set is that some form of Halloween has been practiced by almost every culture since the beginning of recorded time. Either the Druids sure did get around a lot or maybe there are other reasons this festival began. Halloween is no more evil than it was when I was a kid. If everyone who ever went trick or treating became a Satanist there would be no more Christian churches in existence.
I chalk this up to the unfortunate mind set of Evangelical/Fundamentalists who see Satan under every rock. It is easy to blame the devil for things instead of looking within one's self to see the evil that resides there. Frankly I feel that humans can come up with such evil all on their own that Satan must blush to see it. This is the same paranoia that says Harry Potter books are straight from the pit however it's ok for my kids to read Grimm's Fairy tales. I can't see much difference between the of two except Grimm's has been around a lot longer. Oh and what about the witch in CS Lewis's fiction. That's ok since it's a Christian allegory but frankly a witch, is a witch, is a witch. For many Christians there is a very selective view of what is and isn't Satanic which can be called nothing other than absurd.
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