Keeper of His Home

by Chelsea McCafferty

To Halloween or Not to Halloween…That is the Question

on October 28, 2014

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A lot of people know little about the origins of Halloween. Some people know some about it. Many think they know more than they actually do. As a Christian, this always becomes a bit of a tricky topic. There are those who are violently against any type of participation in the holiday, calling it satanic worship and evil. There are also Christians who do participate, but on varying levels. I recently heard a sermon in which people were most certainly advised against participation, even with a more “Christianized” version of the holiday such as a harvest festival. I’m not here to say that this wonderful pastor is wrong, nor to try and convince anyone else about what they should do. I think this one is about personal conviction. I am going to share my perspective after having studied the history thoroughly and prayed about it, just so that you have all the facts to make your own decision.

Before I continue, I want to be clear that I look down on neither those who do Halloween or those who do not. In other words, I respect both viewpoints and truly believe you must follow whatever your personal conviction is on the matter. In fact, I only get upset and frustrated when believers judge and look down on me for my stance on it (even though it is likely that I know more about the origins and background of the topic). I write this more as a way to dispel myths and false teaching on it so that Christians can be more respectful and understanding of the different views. So don’t be offended or get angry. This is just my personal opinion based on the information I have gathered. We don’t have to agree on everything to be sisters and brothers in the Lord, amen?

So….Halloween.

History

Halloween started in as at least three different events that eventually merged together. In the mid-second century, the Catholic church looked to unify and dedicate a day to remember and appreciate the Christian martyrs who had died sharing the gospel. The “Feast of All Martyrs” from the fourth century was the earliest known example. All Saints Day was created in 610 by Pope Boniface IV and was moved to November 1st in 835.

Now there was something else going on at this time that coincides with the formation of All Saints Day. This was an ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain. The purpose of this day was to celebrate the end of the harvest (a time of gratitude), as well as to prepare for a dark winter season (a time of uncertainty and fear). You see, winter for these people was a time of darkness and often death. Death of the crops, harsh weather, frozen and starving livestock and sometimes the death of people. It was hard conditions.

These Celtic pagans did not know about or worship the God of the Bible, to be sure. Nor did they believe in or know about Satan. The festival was not about Satan worship. What they did believe is that the dark winter was a time when evil spirits destroyed the land and tried to destroy them. They would make bonfires to frighten away evil spirits and they would wear masks and costumes (usually from animal skin) to mimic and mock the spirits. Now the Druid priests believed they had power to communicate with the dead and they did practice this. There’s no doubt these pagans were practicing evil and false religion. That’s where the Catholic missionaries came in.

Missionaries came into Celtic lands and began to try and change the Celts practices. They declared that Samhain was evil and they instead encouraged them to celebrate two holidays that would be practiced instead of Samhain. The first was All Souls Day (or All Hallows), which was held on Nov 2nd in which homage was paid to the souls of people who had died. The second holiday, but first in order, was All Saints Day on November 1st. Since it was the day before All Hallows Day it was also called All Hallows Eve. This is where Halloween gets it’s name…more from the Catholic holiday that was encouraged to combat Samhain than from the festival itself. Regardless, some Celts joined up, others didn’t, and many of the traditions were merged together.

Today what is celebrated as Halloween is nothing at all like the Samhain Festival, nor like All Saints Day and All Souls Day practiced by the Catholics. Irish immigrants brought some of the traditions to America and they have continued to change throughout the years, but even the very root of the holiday has been altered. Today, for most people, the holiday is nothing more than a time for families to have fun, dress up, interact with the community and eat candy. In fact, the tradition of trick-or-treating is much more like the innocent, child’s holiday called Beggar’s Day, in which the children would dress up and go from home to home in their village getting treats from neighbors. It was and continues to be a fun community tradition. A study of the history shows that there was nothing fun or light-hearted about Samhain. The truth was, it was a time of terror and death. They were afraid for their lives. It was nothing like the Halloween of today.

My family enjoys participating in Halloween and I do so without conviction that we are displeasing the Lord. We know Who we serve and Who we worship. We aren’t practicing evil rituals. What’s evil about going from house to house and getting treats, or participating at a harvest festival? What’s evil about dressing up? These things are not evil in and of themselves. They are harmless diversions that actually, historically, were more tied to Beggars Day that would occur in November/fall. Now, we do not do costumes that are frightening or dark or evil in our family. That’s our conviction. We also tend to stay away from any situation where it seems they may be glorifying darkness at all. Are there still people who practice false and evil religion today who enjoy reliving the ancient Celtic days of Samhain? I’m sure there are…but that has nothing to do with us. October 31st is a day that the Lord has made, and we’re not handing that day over to Satan and saying he gets to have it. We praise the Lord and use it as a day for fun, family and community involvement.

Now…..what about Christianizing pagan holidays?

Well, I’ve not only studied the history of Halloween but also of Easter and Christmas. If you think that there are no pagan roots in these other two holidays, you’ll be shocked to discover that there are indeed. Easter and Christmas have been Christianized to be days of celebration of the Lord’s birth and His death and resurrection. I love that! I love that we have taken what pagans meant for evil and turned it to good. We have claimed the days back for Jesus and celebrate Him and all that He has done.

It is, in my opinion, a double-standard to say that celebrating Easter and Christmas are acceptable, but participating in Halloween makes you a bad Christian. I don’t mind in the least that many of my friends feel convicted not to do Halloween. I do find it a bit short-sighted for people to try and force their convictions on me about Halloween and then to turn around and practice Easter and Christmas. Some say that to do anything on Halloween is the same as practicing this holiday. Then, in the same manner, to do anything on Christmas or Easter is the same as practicing the evil pagan roots from those holiday origins…. a Christmas tree being a prime example.

I want to say one last thing. The Word of God tells us not to eat food that was sacrificed to idols. The food itself wasn’t what was bad….it was what was done with it. Halloween is not evil if we don’t use it for evil.

At the end of the day, I have no problem with people choosing not to do Halloween. Paul shared in Romans that people feel different convictions (in this case about Sabbaths and dietary restrictions) and that we should not judge or look down on one another. “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” Romans 14:5 Rather, let each person follow the conviction of their heart and do so unto the Lord. I am not trying to change the conviction that you have, but rather want to shed some light on the full history of the holiday and to share why my family has no problem participating in modern day festivities. No matter where we stand on this issue, may the Lord be praised on October 31st and on every day of the year, and may we love one another in a spirit of unity and not in judgment! God bless!

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2 responses to “To Halloween or Not to Halloween…That is the Question

  1. Wow, really well said. This is a topic that I have thought on and debated in my own head many times, and I always come to the same conclusion that you state here. I fully believe that we can take things originally intended for worldly/false purposes and give them to God in an honoring and glorifying manner. You articulated your view really well!

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