Halloween – Good or Bad?

6143514937_b426911692I’ve been asked what the difference between Christians celebrating Christmas and Easter, and NOT celebrating Halloween?

Christmas and Easter, while certainly pagan in its roots, directly celebrate our Savior’s birth and resurrection, respectively. Halloween, on the other hand, has nothing to do with Jesus, His life, etc.

The Christmas holiday we celebrate today is indicative of Christianity’s willingness to absorb the world’s customs and traditions, and forget its simple roots in the historical reality of Jesus Christ. However, even atheists and pagans admit it’s a celebration of Christ’s birth.

Christmas should be nothing more than a simple, yet wonderful reminder of Christ’s humble beginning as a human child in this world. His birth merely set the stage for the power, glory, and salvation that would be revealed in His life, death, and resurrection!

The pagan Samhain festival celebrated the final harvest, death, and the onset of winter, for three days–October 31 to November 2. The Celts believed the curtain dividing the living and the dead lifted during Samhain to allow the spirits of the dead to walk among the living–ghosts haunting the earth.

Some embraced the season of haunting by engaging in occult practices such as divination and communication with the dead. They sought “divine” spirits (demons) and the spirits of their ancestors regarding weather forecasts for the coming year, crop expectations, and even romantic prospects. Bobbing for apples was one practice the pagans used to divine the spiritual world’s “blessings” on a couple’s romance.

For others the focus on death, occultism, divination, and the thought of spirits returning to haunt the living, fueled ignorant superstitions and fears. They believed spirits were earthbound until they received a proper sendoff 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.

Into that dark, superstitious, pagan world, God mercifully shined the light of the gospel. Newly converted Christians armed themselves with the truth and no longer feared a haunting from departed spirits returning to earth. In fact, they denounced their former pagan spiritism in accord with Deuteronomy 18:

There shall not be found among you anyone…who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord (vv. 10-13).

Nonetheless, Christian converts found family and cultural influence hard to withstand; they were tempted to rejoin the pagan festivals, especially Samhain. Pope Gregory IV reacted to the pagan challenge by moving the celebration of All Saints Day in the ninth century–he set the date at November 1, right in the middle of Samhain.

As the centuries passed, Samhain and All Hallows Eve mixed together. On the one hand, pagan superstitions gave way to “Christianized” 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.

Halloween has a more direct root in a demonic pagan celebration that, even today, is celebrated as a dark, demonic, and death-focused event. That’s very different in my thinking than celebrating Christ’s birthday and His resurrection, something very positive that demonstrates our triumph over death through Christ.

Just my opinion, but I’ll stick with it.

© Gary Stripling 2011

4 thoughts on “Halloween – Good or Bad?

  1. Finally someone stands up and says it like it is! You have concretely summarized reasons why I don´t do that in my house. Sadly enough the tradition has made it´s way to the Netherlands where I live in the last couple of years. It´s evil and just giving the occult free reign. May the Lord protect our kids and our nations. thanks for sharing

  2. …Christianity’s willingness to absorb the world’s customs and traditions…
    That’s it Gary, that’s it. It is always a breeze of fresh air to see people of God with influence to stand firm in the truth of God’s Word.

    Hallelujah!

  3. Open Your Doors and Turn The Lights on for Halloween!
    Scott Wesley Brown

    I grew up in a neighborhood called “Sleepy Hollow” where our streets were named after the ghoulish tale, “The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow”. Halloween took on a whole new meaning as we “trick or treated” our way down Ichabod lane fearing the headless horseman closing in on us! Actually my mind was more on candy than any ghost of the past.

    When I became a Christian I began to question the entire Halloween ordeal. Is it something that Christians should participate in? What about Biblical warnings of dabbling with the occult? (Deut. 18: 9-13)

    The origin of Halloween dates back 1900 years ago to New Year celebrations by Irish, French and English Celtic druids. Of course witches and spirits supposedly joined in the festivities!

    One custom emerging from the Romans was the giving away of fruit. When I was a kid those were the houses we avoided! Who wanted an apple when you could get a Milky Way next door!

    The church has often countered these kind of rituals and celebrations. We have either attempted to Christianize them or provide alternatives such as a harvest festival at church where kids dress up as their favorite Biblical characters. Or sometimes it is the other way around where Christian celebrations have been paganized by the world, i.e. Christmas and Easter! And yet we still all have a tree and eat chocolate bunnies!

    I’m not wanting to debate the issue of Halloween here because I believe it is a matter of one’s conscience whether to participate or not. But I have an idea.

    When I took my little girls out to trick or treat (they usually were princesses) I noticed that the scariest houses in our neighborhood belonged to the Christian families. The lights were all turned off and they looked haunted!

    Here on the one night of the year where scores of neighbors come to our doorsteps the lights are out! This is ironic that we are supposed to be shining our lights! Instead we miss an incredible opportunity to meet new people and even bless them. At my house we’ve always given out kids Bible tracks or fun Bible puzzles along with the candy.

    And as my girls went door to door they gave out little New Testaments. We saw Halloween as an opportunity to witness for Christ! And we’ve tried to keep that tradition with our grandkids!

    Our front doors should be open and our lights should be on. Why let the devil get the best of the day! For sure there is a lot of evil associated with Halloween but if God’s people think differently perhaps we can make it a little more hallowed for some of our neighbors!
    Scott Wesley Brown
    Singer, Pastor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

+ 61 = 69

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.