Every year, on October 31st, our dark neighborhood streets are flooded with candy starved children dressed up as cartoon characters, sports figures, movie stars, witches, ghosts and goblins. How did this strange activity begin, what does it represent and should Christians take part?
Centuries ago, the last day of the Celtic calendar year fell on October 31st. The Celts, ancestors of the Irish, Welsh and Scottish, believed on this night ghosts and witches were most likely to wander about (H.F. Vos, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, p. 493). Of course, no sane villager wanted to interact with ghosts and witches, so on October 31st the Celts disguised themselves as departed spirits as a means of protection. They also left gifts of food for the goblins at the edge of town, hoping that these otherworld creatures would take the food and be on their way. It is easy to see some parallels to our Halloween holiday today when neighbors distribute treats to children disguised as ghosts and goblins.
October 31st is also connected to another day in history known as All Hallows Eve. While the world connects Halloween with all things frightening, it is ironic to note that the root of this word is hallow which means to "set apart as holy, to respect or honor greatly, revere." "Holy" is certainly not a word that would come to mind when describing this night of fright.
All Hallows Eve refers to the night before the religious holy day called All Saints Day. Catholics originally observed All Saints Day on May 13th but this festival was transferred in 835 to November 1 (D.H. Wheaton, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, p. 34). While Catholics began the practice of setting aside days to honor particular departed saints they started to have more martyrs than could be commemorated in the days of the year (Wheaton, p. 34). As a result, they picked All Saints Day as a day when they would honor all saints and martyrs everywhere who had performed great acts of faith and service.
When Christianity spread through the Celtic region, the Celtic practices for October 31st became intermixed with the Catholic practices of All Hallows Eve. The millions of Irish who later immigrated to the United States in the middle 1800s brought their Halloween traditions with them. Now, years later, the American culture has borrowed from these origins and added all kinds of new traditions to what we have come to know as Halloween.
Some view this festive night as a harmless holiday, while others boldly affirm that Halloween is a Satanic event. What should the Christian's attitude be toward Halloween?
I don't believe we should throw out Halloween just because of its pagan origin. The overwhelming majority of those who participate in Halloween do not attach any religious connotations to this night. When my neighbor dresses up her child as a pumpkin, no one on our street then thinks that she is using her child to worship Satan or ward off evil spirits. Also, if the main objection to Halloween is that it has some pagan roots, then to be consistent we would have to get rid of everything with a pagan origin - such as the names for our planets, days of the week, months of the year, several other holidays and much more.
While I dont believe it is a sin to participate in Halloween, there are some aspects of Halloween that we must avoid such as:
The Old Testament reveals a great deal about God's feelings concerning the subject of witchcraft. He clearly prohibited the Israelites from all association with the practices of witchcraft and sorcery:
There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 18:10-13).
King Manasseh violated this law and was condemned because he "practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft, and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord to provoke Him to anger (2 Chronicles 33:6). Several other passages show God's teaching on this matter (Leviticus 19:26, 31; 20:27; 1 Samuel 9:9; Micah 3:7).
In the New Testament we can read about Christians who refused to associate with witchcraft. Ephesus was drenching with the wicked influences of magic and exorcism. "Many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all" (Acts 19:19).
God clearly does not want his children associating with or being influenced by evil mysticism. Do not make light of this warning by imitating the very things that revolt against God.
Let's look at another biblical principle. We also know that God hates violence. "The wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates" (Psalm 11:5). Of all the sins that could have been mentioned, God only recorded two reasons for destroying man by the flood. One of those sins was violence. "For the earth is filled with violence through them; and I will destroy them with the earth" (Genesis 6:13). Much of Halloween is based on making light of horrifically violent acts. Do not use Halloween as a night to poke fun at or be entertained by something that God hates.
You are to flee from Satan and have nothing to do with him whatsoever. God commands you to "Resist the devil" (James 4:7). Run from the works of Satan; dont celebrate them. One year I knew of some college-age Christians who put on a haunted house and they had painted Satan Rules and 666 all over the walls. This certainly is inappropriate behavior. "Abstain from every form (appearance, km) of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:22). We are not exempt from this command on any night, including Halloween.
So, in conclusion, is it wrong to dress up in a costume, eat candy and carve pumpkins? Certainly not. However, be careful about your influence. If you are mimicking paganism, witchcraft, violence, and Satanism, you have gone too far. Refuse to make light of the very things that represent rebellion against God.
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