It’s 31 October and for many people, especially our American and British friends, its Halloween. Its trick or treat time. This has been seen as a harmless celebration over the years. It has not been much supported in South Africa, but support is growing. As we become more connected, as we are influenced by American culture, through television and friends. The participation in Halloween increases.
But as a Christian, should you be participating in this event. With no clear direct references to Halloween in the Bible, resolving the age old debate can be a challenge. How should Christians approach Halloween and is there a biblical way to observe this secular holiday?
Christians have been strongly divided on the observance of Halloween. Some believers feel complete freedom to observe the holiday, others run and hide from it, many boycott or ignore it, a number celebrate it through more positive and imaginative observances or Christian alternatives to Halloween, some don’t even know about it and wonder what all the fuss is all about, and still others choose to take advantage of Halloween's evangelistic opportunities.
The origins of Halloween are from a strong Celtic tradition. Halloween has pagan roots originating from the ancient Celtic festival, Samhain. The Celtic people were very spiritual and were conscious of another world, the spiritual world. They had their own ideas of how they could gain access to it - such as by helping their over 300 gods to defeat their enemies in battle, or by imitating the gods in showing their intellect and cunning.
Their two main feasts were Beltane at the beginning of summer (May 1), and Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween) at the end of summer (Nov. 1). They believed Samhain was a time when the division between the two worlds became very thin, when hostile supernatural forces were active and ghosts and spirits were free to wander as they wished.
"During this interval the normal order of the universe is suspended, the barriers between the natural and the supernatural are temporarily removed, the sidh lies open and all divine beings and the spirits of the dead move freely among men and interfere sometimes violently, in their affairs"
(Celtic Mythology, p. 127).
This harvest festival of the Druids ushered in the New Year, beginning on the evening of October 31, with the lighting of bonfires and the offering of sacrifices. As the Druids danced around the fires, they celebrated the ending of the summer season and the beginning of the season of darkness. This is not applicable to southern hemisphere residents, as our summer begins in September. Perhaps this is why South Africans took so long to latch on to the celebrations.
It was also believed that at this time of year the invisible "gates" between the natural world and the spirit world would open, allowing free movement between the two worlds.
By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. During their rule of the Celtic lands, Roman festivals were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. The Romans observed the holiday of Feralia, intended to give rest and peace to the departed. Participants made sacrifices in honor of the dead, offered up prayers for them, and made oblations to them. Another festival was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.
In the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV introduced All Saints' Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs, to replace the pagan festival of the dead. It was observed on May 13. In 834, Gregory III moved All Saint's Day from May 13 to Nov. 1 and for Christians, this became an opportunity for remembering before God all the saints who had died and all the dead in the Christian community. Oct. 31 thus became All Hallows' Eve ('hallow' means 'saint').. However, some of the pagan beliefs and practices associated with the celebration have persisted.
In 1517, a monk named Martin Luther honored the faithful saints of the past by choosing All Saints Day (November 1) as the day to publicly charge the Church heirarchy with abandoning biblical faith. This became known as "Reformation Day," a fitting celebration of the restoration the same biblical faith held by the saints throughout church history.
So what has that got to do with celebrating Halloween today. Surely those historical tractions have been long forgotten, and have no significance to us today. To find out if Halloween has any real religious connotations today, we need to research the Religions of Satan.
Our research brings us to Wicca, the official religion of witchcraft. What does it have to say about Halloween? Perhaps they viewed the day as a simple fun and innocent neighbourhood activity?
To our shock and dismay we found that Halloween is a real, sacred day for those who follow Wicca. In fact, it is one of two high and holy days for them. The Celtic belief of spirits being released is current, along with the worship of Samhain (the lord of death) – both are promoted as something to embrace on that day.
There is no question that to those who believe and follow the practices of witchcraft, Halloween represents an opportunity to embrace the evil, devilish, dark side of the spiritual world.
Deut 18:10-12 “10 There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch,
11 Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
12 For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.”
These verses are pretty clear on what a Christian should not do. But you say, I’m not sacrificing my children, I’m not calling on the spirit of the dead. I’m not worshipping the devil. How many Christians are sacrificing their sons and daughters as a burnt offering on Halloween? How many are calling forth the spirits of the dead? The verse does not say that "trick or treating" disgusts the Lord.
However, what if you have come to the Christian faith from a background in the occult? What if, before you became a Christian, you did practice some of these deeds associated with witchcraft and sorcery? Perhaps refraining from Halloween and its activities is the safest and most appropriate response for you as an individual.
We need to be circumspect as to how our deeds and actions affect others. Often times there are no clear cut answers as to how to behave in the bible on certain issues. But one thing is clear. If it causes my brother to fall ,I should abstain.
Rom 14:13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother‘s way.
1Co 8:13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.
How then does this affect us as Christians. Well the bible does tells us to avoid all appearance of evil. 1Th 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
But it also tells us to be all things to all men. 1Co 9:22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
Does this then mean we are to embrace the very evil things that men might do in order to win them to Christ. Absolutely not.We are to resist the Devil. we are to be in this world not of this world. But we are also told not to love the things of this world.
1Jo 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
There are many verses in the bible that in principal warn against such things as Halloween. Sure, the Bible does not say “Thou shalt not celebrate Halloween”. But it does say to honour God, resist the Devil, flee temptation, do no evil.
1Thes 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
3John1:11 Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.
1Cor 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
Clearly Halloween is a worldly festival rooted in paganism. Clearly it is stooped in Devil worship. We should have no part in it. What we as Christians need to do is ask ourselves, are we doing justice to the cause of Christ by celebrating Halloween? If not, what then are we to do? Do we just ignore it, hide away, or run?
The answer I believe is No. Do not ignore or run away. Embrace the opportunity to spread the Gospel. I’m not advocating trick or treating. But have you ever considered the people that would potentially knock at your door, opening themselves up to a short gospel message. You do not have to go trick or treating, but you can give your testimony to those who are willing to come to your door. Along with your sweets you could also give some gospel tracts. Or how about creating a gospel message around some of those sweets.
Have you ever heard of the “Wordless Book” It has five colours representing the Gospel. Black – Sin, Red – Blood of Christ, White – Salvation, Yellow – Heaven, Green – Growth. What about Sweets or treats based on those five colours. As you hand them out, you can share the Gospel.
As Christians you and I are placed in this world to be a light in a world of darkness. There is no lasting benefit to ignore a holiday that exists around us, but it also does harm to celebrate Halloween as it has originated and grown over the centuries.