Christians and Halloween
It’s that time of year. The cooler weather is here, and the leaves are changing colors. Which means, Halloween is just around the corner.
Each year, it seems the Halloween displays get bigger, and the customs more elaborate. It’s weird walking through the store and seeing witches and skeletons on one side of the aisle, and Santa Claus and reindeer on the other. But there is no doubt that Halloween has become a major “holiday” in America. It’s estimated that Americans will spend anywhere from $6 to $8 billion on Halloween this year. That’s incredible.
As a father of four, and a having pastored for nearly twenty years, I am constantly asked by parents and young people if it’s OK to celebrate Halloween?
There are those who say any involvement with Halloween is opening the door to Satan. While other Christian parents believe that knocking on doors with their kids in the neighborhood is just good family fun.
So which is it?
Difference Between Celebrate and Participate
Well, for starters, let me stress the difference between using the word celebrate and participate. If a Christian family allows their children to dress up and knock on doors, and even say, “Trick or treat. Smell my feet. Give me something good to eat,” – I think it’s safe to assume that that Christian family isn’t celebrating the dark side of Halloween. All they are really doing is participating (or partaking) in a day where other American families are handing out candy, and having fun with their neighbors and friends.
If you recall, thousands of years ago, it was the Celtics (which is now Ireland, United Kingdom, and parts of France), who celebrated the new year on November 1. However, the night before, they celebrated Samhain (pronounced Sow-in, “lord of death”), when it was believed that the spirits of the dead would return to earth. The people would leave gifts at their door (e.g., wine, bread and crops) to keep the dead spirits at bay, and wear ghost costumes in public to avoid being recognized. The Druids would make bonfires, dress up in animal costumes, and offer sacrifices to deities (channeling supernatural powers to protect their crops and bless their future). Many believed the end of summer, and coming of winter represented the actual clash of the spirits on earth. In time, the Romans took power, implementing their own traditions.
But here’s what’s interesting. For hundreds of years, the Celts, Druids and Romans all practiced their dark fall traditions, until the Roman Catholic Church sought to counter these paganistic festivals with their own. By the turn of the 8th century, the Roman Catholic Church supplanted their own sanctioned holidays, known as All Saints Day (remembering the heavenly saints) on November 1, and All Souls Day (a commemoration of the dead) on November 2. On these days, Catholics would celebrate with their own bonfires, feasts, while dressed up as dead saints. Eventually, “Eve of All Hallows” (which the name “Halloween” is derived), was observed on October 31, for a day to pray for God’s protection from evil (observed by Christians) the day before All Saints Day. Often, Christians would dress in costumes of saints and demons, and perform plays representing the spiritual battle of good and evil.
American Celebration & Participation
Fast forward to America, the early colonies emerged with their own fall festivals that celebrated the harvest. By the 19th century, a large wave of Irish and Scottish immigrants came to America during the potato famine of 1846. With it, the Irish brought over some of their “Halloween” traditions, which the Americans built upon. And by the 1950s, Halloween became a national holiday – more about neighborly fun, pranks, and lots and lots of candy.
Proper Context to Halloween
Now there certainly are those who still celebrate Halloween by commemorating its paganistic origins and traditions; while others celebrate Halloween with religious ceremonies by remembering the dead. But, for the most part, Americans (and even many Christians), don’t have a clue about the ancient origins of Samhain, and the origination of “All Hallows Eve” from the Catholic Church. Most Americans participate in Halloween activities because it’s fun. They love to dress up in their favorite characters, and stroll around the neighborhood collecting candy.
But that doesn’t give anyone an excuse to claim innocence on account of ignorance. Given the historical background to Halloween from pagans to Catholics, it provides us with the proper context to Halloween, and therefore, insight on taking the right approach to it.
Through the years, my wife and I have done different things. We have met other families for ice cream and donuts. Stayed home passing out candy, while the kids watched movies and ate popcorn (and tons of candy!). Other times, we went to a Fall Festival event at church. Some years we did decide to walk the streets with our kids knocking on our neighbors’ doors. But no matter what my wife and I have done with our kids on Halloween, we have always tried to put things in proper perspective for them.
- There are many people who love to display horrific images on Halloween, and seek to strike fear into children.
- Halloween is celebrated by Wiccans, and considered by many to be a high holy day.
- Halloween can and does attract crazy people, so if we do decide to trick or treat, it’s got to be as a family, and in a safe environment (like our neighborhood or a party at a close friend’s house).
- Halloween costumes have to be modest and appropriate. Costumes that promote sex, violence, or anything that doesn’t honor the Lord is not acceptable in our home.
- Halloween is a great time to get to know neighbors, and a great reminder that there is a real spiritual battle between light and darkness.
So whatever you decide about Halloween, I pray that your family remains safe, and honors God in all that you do.
Jason is a worldview expert that specializes in cultural, philosophical, theological, and religious issues, and speaks on popular topics, such as: religious freedom, ISIS, Islam, same-sex marriage, America’s Christian heritage, the reliability of the Bible, biblical leadership, and many more. Jason conducts numerous interviews in the media, and has appeared on CBS Radio, the Christian Post, World Net Daily (WND), Family Talk with Dr. James Dobson, TBN’s Praise the Lord, and Sky News. Jason’s latest book, “Stand Strong America: Courage, Freedom, and Hope for Tomorrow,” coauthored with Alex McFarland, offers a vision of hope in the midst of great uncertainty and fear in America.