Should a Christian celebrate Halloween?
Halloween is celebrated by millions of people as a fun time for kids, putting on costumes, and going door-to-door to get candy. But it is also known as a time of witches, ghouls, goblins, and ghosts. On one hand, some see Halloween as a harmless time of fun and on the other, a ghastly and demonically inspired night to be avoided. As a Christian, I have never celebrated Halloween, but become increasingly concerned at the site of Christian parents dressing their children up in frightful horrific costumes, and sending them out trick or treating. Is it just harmless fun, or should we, as Christians, refuse to join in the festivities of Halloween?
The pagan origins of Halloween
The word Halloween is derived from the term "All Hallows Eve" which occurred on Oct. 31, the end of summer in North western Europe. "All Saints Day," or "All Hallows Day" was the next Day, Nov. 1st. Therefore, Halloween is the eve of All Saints Day. Halloween has been celebrated for over 2000 years, and it’s origins can be traced back to ancient Ireland and Scotland around the time of Christ. On Oct. 31st, the pagan Celts celebrated the end of summer. This was important because it was when animal herders would move their animals into barns and pens and prepare to ride out the winter. This was also the time of the crop harvests. It was a time for celebrating the year’s harvest and for honouring the dead. The Celts believed that all laws of time and space were suspended during this time, allowing spirits to roam the earth and intermingle with the living, so they built raging fires and made offerings to appease these restless spirits. Life slowed down as winter brought darkness (shortened days and longer nights), fallow ground, and death. The imagery of death, symbolized by skeletons, skulls, and the colour black, remains prominent in today's Halloween celebrations. This annual change of season and lifestyle was marked by a festival, called Samhain -- which means 'end of summer.'
There was much superstition associated with this time of change including the belief in fairies, and that the spirits of the dead wandered around looking for bodies to inhabit. Since the living did not want to be possessed by spirits, they dressed up in costumes and paraded around the streets making loud noises to confuse and frighten the spirits away. For others the focus on death, occultism, divination, and the thought of spirits returning to haunt the living, fuelled ignorant superstitions and fears. They believed spirits were earthbound until they received a proper send-off with treats, possessions, wealth, food, and drink. Spirits who were not suitably "treated" would "trick" those who had neglected them. The fear of haunting only multiplied if that spirit had been offended during its natural lifetime. Trick-bent spirits were believed to assume grotesque appearances. Some traditions developed, which believed wearing a costume to look like a spirit would fool the wandering spirits. Others believed the spirits could be warded off by carving a grotesque face into a gourd or root vegetable (the Scottish used turnips) and setting a candle inside it…..the jack-o-lantern. In addition, the new year began for the Celts on Nov. 1. So, the day of Samhain was believed to be a day that was in neither the year past or the year to come. Since it was in between, chaos ruled on that day. Often, people would pull practical jokes on others as a result.
The Roman Catholic origins of Halloween
Portions of the Celtic holiday eventually morphed into Christian culture after the Romans conquered the Celts. If you have read my study on “Christmas”, this will sound familiar. Conscious efforts were made to bring the pagans into the practice of Catholicism. They were baptised and their pagan celebrations, traditions and rituals were Christianised, so that the Roman Catholic church was more palatable to the pagans. In the 8th century, the church moved “All Saints Day” from May to November 1, because this was the date that the druids honoured their dead, with ancient, pagan rituals. On this day all the saints of the Catholic church were honoured. A later custom developed where people would go door-to-door on November 2, requesting small cakes in exchange for the promise of saying prayers for some of the dead relatives of each house. This arose out of the religious belief that the dead were in a state of limbo before they went to heaven or hell and that the prayers of the living could influence the outcome. This may have been the precursor to Trick-or-Treat. So, the pagan’s “Samhain” and the Roman Catholic’s “All Hallows Eve” mixed together. On the one hand, pagan superstitions gave way to "Christianised" superstitions and provided more fodder for fear. People began to understand that the pagan ancestral spirits were demons and the diviners were practicing witchcraft and necromancy. On the other hand, the festival time provided greater opportunity for revelry. Trick-or-treat became a time when roving bands of young hooligans would go house-to-house gathering food and drink for their parties. Stingy householders ran the risk of a "trick" being played on their property from drunken young people.
So, it appears that the origins of Halloween are a mixture of old Celtic pagan rituals superstition and early Catholic traditions. Halloween came to American with the early Irish and Scottish immigrants. It is from their folklore that we get many of our modern practices.
Tom Sanguinet, a former high priest in Wicca has said: “The modern holiday that we call Halloween has its origins in the full moon closest to November 1, the witches’ new year. It is a time when the spirits (demons) are supposed to be at their peak power and revisiting planet earth… Halloween is purely and absolutely evil, and there is nothing we ever have, or will do, that would make it acceptable to the Lord Jesus.”
=> The jack-o-lantern
The Jack-O-Lantern apparently comes from Irish folklore about a man named Jack who tricked the devil into climbing a tree. Once the devil was in the tree, Jack carved a cross on the trunk, preventing the devil from coming down. The devil then made a deal with Jack not to allow Jack into hell after Jack died if only Jack would remove the cross from the tree. After Jack died, he couldn't go to hell, and he couldn't go to heaven. He was forced to wander around the earth with a single candle to light his way. The candle was placed in a turnip to keep it burning longer. Pagans also believed that evil spirits could be warded off by carving a grotesque face into a root vegetable, and placing a candle inside. When the Irish came to America in the 1800's, they adopted the pumpkin instead of the turnip. The World Book Encyclopedia says: “The apparently harmless lighted pumpkin face of the Jack-O-Lantern is an ancient symbol of a damned soul.”
=> The colours of Halloween
Even the orange and black colours of Halloween have a pagan origin. At the Druid Festival for Samhain, huge bon fires were used for offering sacrifices. So the colours of the night were orange flames glowing in the dark.
=> Black cats
The black cat was believed by the Druids to be evil spirit friends of witches, and even witches themselves. They were considered by some to be reincarnated spirits who had prophetic abilities.
=> Scary masks
Scary masks were worn by the pagan Celts to scare away evil spirits.
Some witches are worshipers of the spirits of the earth. They believe that the whole earth is the giver of life and has power to give and take away life from humans. God does not condone the worship of earth-spirits.
=> Trick or treating
To obtain these sacrifices, druid priests would go from house to house asking for fatted calves, black sheep and human beings. Those who gave were promised prosperity, and those who refused to give were threatened and cursed. This is the origin of “trick or treat.”
=> Human and animal sacrifices
On Halloween, for thousands of years, druid priests have conducted diabolical worship ceremonies in which cats, horses, sheep, oxen, human beings and other offerings were rounded up, stuffed into wicca cages and burned to death. These human and animal sacrifices were apparently required to appease Samhain and keep the spirits from harming them.
=> Dance of death
While people and animals were screaming in agony, being burnt to death, the druids and their followers would dress in costumes made of animal skins and heads. They would dance, chant and jump through the flames in the hope of warding off evil spirits.
=> House of Horrors
One of the popular heroes of Halloween, Count Dracula, was also a real person. Dracula lived from 1431 to 1476. During his six year reign, Count Dracula massacred over 100,000 men, women and children in the most hideous ways. He devised a plan to rid his country of the burden of beggars, the handicapped, the sick and the aged by inviting them to a feast at one of his palaces. He fed them well and got them drunk. Then he asked them: “Do you want to be without cares, lacking nothing in the world?” When his guests yelled: “Yes!” Dracula ordered the palace boarded up and set on fire. No one escaped this original “house of horror.”
What does the Bible say about Halloween?
Scripture does not speak at all about Halloween, but it does give us some principles on which we can make a decision. In Old Testament Israel, witchcraft was a crime punishable by death. The New Testament teaching about the occult is clear. In Acts 8:9-24, we read the story of Simon, shows that occultism and Christianity don't mix. The account of Elymas, the sorcerer, in Acts 13:6-11 teaches us that sorcery is violently opposed to Christianity. Paul called Elymas a child of the devil, an enemy of righteousness and a perverter of the ways of God. In Acts 16, at Philippi, a fortune-telling girl lost her demon powers when the evil spirit was cast out by Paul. The interesting matter here is that Paul refused to allow even good statements to come from a demon-influenced person. Acts 19 shows new converts who have abruptly broken with their former occultism by confessing, showing their evil deeds, bringing their magic paraphernalia, and burning it before everyone.
Exodus 22:18 “You shall not let a witch live.”
Deuteronomy 18:9-13 “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 with the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord.”
Leviticus 19:26, 31; 20:6: "Do not practice divination or sorcery. Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God. I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people."
2Ki 21:5, 6 “And he built shrines to the cosmic powers and placed them in both courtyards of The Temple of GOD. He burned his own son in a sacrificial offering. He practiced black magic and fortunetelling. He held séances and consulted spirits from the underworld. Much evil--in GOD's judgment, a career in evil. And GOD was angry."
Jeremiah 7:17-19: "Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes of bread for the Queen of Heaven. They pour drink offerings to other gods to provoke me to anger. But am I the one they are provoking? declares the Lord. Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame?"
1 Corinthians 10:20-21 “I say 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 of the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in the Lord’s table and the table of demons.”
Galatians 4:8-10 “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God - or rather are known by God - how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.”
Romans 13:12a “Let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light!”
The Bible definitely speaks negatively about occult practices, spirits, and witches and condemns not only the practice but also the people who are involved in it.
As Christians, we are to have nothing to do with the occult. Tarot Cards, contacting the dead, séances, lucky charms, etc. They are all unbiblical and can harm a Christian's fellowship with God and open the Christian to demonic oppression. Most Christians know this and avoid these activities.
Are you a Christian, willing to hear the Word of God, and His warnings about dabbling in the things of the Devil? Then SKIP Halloween this year and tell others to do likewise!
Ephesians 5:11 "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them."
Romans 13:12 "The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light."
Written by Lee Lambert