Halloween and the Christian
During the month of October, many conscientious Christians grow curious about the moral aspects of participating in Halloween. Christians observe violent, bloody, and immodest costumes on Halloween and wonder if such is appropriate for their children to celebrate the holiday. Some Christians celebrate Halloween simply by dressing up in a costume and having fun, seeing it as innocent and harmless. Other Christians are equally convinced that Halloween represents a satanic holiday established to worship evil spirits and promote darkness and wickedness. The questions vary from, “Wasn’t Halloween originally a Satanists’ holiday?”. “Is it wrong for a Christian to celebrate Halloween?”. When I studied history at Tennessee Tech University, one of my classes was the history of “Ghosts, Myths, and Legends”. The professor spent half of the semester discussing the history of this holiday.
Halloween developed out of three cultural traditions: the Celtic Feast of Samhain, the Roman Harvest Festival of Pomona, and the early Catholic traditions. When Julius Caesar invaded Britain from 55 to 54 B.C., the Romans brought with them their cultural celebrations such as the Roman harvest festivals of Pomona. Community celebrations from bountiful harvests including apples, pumpkins, beets, and other garden vegetables were used in celebratory games. These traditions assimilated with the ancient Celtic traditions and festivals. The Celtic Feast of Samhain took place within the same timeframe as the Roman harvest festival. The last day of October was the Celtics New Year. The Celtics believed this was a time when the veil between life and death was thin. Samhain represented a time of celebrating and remembering ancestry. The Celtics believed the spirits of their ancestors would visit them during this time of the year when the nights grew longer. Celtics would disguise themselves when leaving their houses so that the angry spirits would not recognize them and take vengeance. At the beginning of the first century, the Celtics and Romans assimilated the two festivals together. The Roman Celtics would often light candles in pumpkins with carved faces to scare or capture the angry spirits. Some would leave food on the front door to placate the spirits. During the ninth century when Catholicism spread to Britain, the missionaries integrated the Christian saints within these festivals. The Christians called this time of remembering saints, All Hallows Eve, where the term Halloween originated. During the 12th century in Britain, young men traditionally skulked around in disguise threating vandalism and chanting for “soul” cakes with songs that resembled the “trick-or-treat” rhymes. If people provided them with cakes, the young men would not vandalize their property, thus “trick-or-treat.” Such traditions carried over to New England in the 1800s and local traditions changed slightly and developed into what we now see as Halloween. (This is obviously a very abridged version of the history of Halloween).
Some Christians believe Halloween originated in Satanism, but that is a myth. Halloween stemmed from Roman and Celtic paganism and was later influenced by Catholic traditions. In the 1800s, blood cults and Satanists in New England would often use this time of year for sacrifices and ceremonies because of the holiday’s strong pagan influences and history. Satanists celebrate Halloween, but Halloween was not created by Satanists. Originally, Halloween had nothing to do with Satan but was predominantly a celebration of ancestry and harvest.
Scripture does not speak directly about Halloween but does provide some principles on which Christians can make decisions. In the Old Testament, God forbids Israel from having any association with pagan influencers like witches and such crimes were punishable by death (Ex. 22:18; Lev. 19:31; Lev. 20:6, 27). In the New Testament, the apostles encounter several individuals who practiced sorcery. The account of Elymas the sorcerer in Acts 13:6-11 reveals sorcery to be harshly opposed to Christianity. Paul calls Elymas a “child of the devil” and an “enemy of all righteousness” (Acts 13:10). Peter and John encounter Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8:9-24 who showed sorcery stood in opposition to Christianity. In Acts 16, at Philippi, Paul refuses to allow even good statements to come from a demon-influenced person by casting out the demon from a girl who proclaimed Paul and his company to be men of God. Acts 19 shows new converts repenting and turning away from evil influences by bringing their magic paraphernalia and burning it before everyone (Acts 19:19). However, these passages show people who took magic and sorcery seriously, allowing magic and sorcery to turn them away from God. These passages would not be relevant to people who entertain the pretend world of fantasy for fun.
In addressing Christians with conflicting views of holidays, Paul writes in the context of scruples, “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5). The apostle addresses the topic because the Jews were passing judgment on the Gentiles for not keeping certain Jewish traditions and honoring Jewish holy days, or as they would eventually be called, ‘holidays.’ Paul explains the Jewish holy days were not carried over to the New Testament covenant (Col. 2:16,17). The Gentile Christians were not obligated to keep these special days, but if the Jews wanted to keep their special days, they were to do so with the understanding that whether they honored their traditions or not, those traditions and holidays would have no bearing on their salvation. The Jews were not to bind the Old Testament traditions in the new body of Christ (Rom. 7:4: … ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ…”). Christians should not split the church or make others feel bad for not having the same feelings towards holidays as them. Paul explains that the Lord has nothing against celebrating cultural holidays as long as Christians continue to act and speak like followers of God. Those that choose to celebrate Halloween should not judge those that refuse to celebrate the holiday for personal reasons, and those that choose not to celebrate Halloween should not judge those who celebrate Halloween (Rom. 14:6-10; Col. 2:16).
Ultimately, is there anything wrong with children dressing up as princesses or cowboys and asking for candy with friends? Absolutely not! Are there dark aspects to Halloween that should be avoided? Yes. Regardless of the bad, Christians can celebrate Halloween in Christian environments within their neighborhoods or church groups. Some Christians even hand out gospel pamphlets with candy to further the gospel. Christians have every ability to celebrate Halloween from godly attitudes, dress, and most importantly behavior (Col. 3:17).
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