Celebrating Halloween: Harmless or Heretical?
By request, this blog will deal with the topic of Halloween, its origins, and traditions. Furthermore, we will be discussing the age-old question… “Is it okay for Christians to celebrate Halloween?” For followers of Christ, can Halloween be celebrated harmlessly and “just for fun”? Or, should Christians abstain from associating with this dark holiday altogether?
The Bible is our roadmap for life; however, there comes times when we may not be able to specifically find an answer, verbatim, which we are looking for. In instances like this, we are to be guided by biblical principles. Scripture does not say, “Thou shalt not observe Halloween” – although it does speak against darkness and evil. But, what if someone observes Halloween in a way, they feel, is not uplifting evil? How can we teach, dogmatically, that such a thing is wrong? I believe that is where Philippians 2:12-13 comes into play. It says, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Perhaps, it could also be that to whom God entrusts more, He requires more of.
While doing this study, I grappled between two schools of thought. The first being, that Christians can celebrate Halloween and pass out Gospel tracts with the candy to their trick-or-treaters; and/or dress in costumes that are “cute” or “fun” and not evil. The second school of thought is that we must please God above ourselves and steer clear of anything that could even be perceived as evil. My personal stance of NOT celebrating Halloween was reconfirmed during my studies. Nonetheless, I must remain unbiased, as to refrain from pushing my opinion upon others. But, there also comes a time when I must share more than my mere human opinion. I must share what I’ve studied and what scripture says. I must share what I feel would lead others in the best direction and which would be honorable to our Lord.
Before embarking upon writing on this particular topic, I asked other Christians for their opinions in regards to Halloween. The results are as follows:
*20% of Christians said they saw no problem with celebrating Halloween for the kid’s sake or as a fun tradition; as in handing out candy, dressing up, going door-to-door to Trick-or-Treat, etc.
*30% of Christians said they were altogether against celebrating Halloween in any shape, form, or fashion.
*50% of Christians said they were against the evil costumes and the origins of Halloween, but thought as long as the costumes were decent and if it was held in a controlled environment (such as a church setting) that it was okay to celebrate Halloween; perhaps renaming it “Fall Festival” or another term.
The Origins of Halloween
Many of us dressed up for Halloween and went Trick-or-Treating when we were kids. I’ve heard many say, “I dressed up for Halloween when I was little and it never made me demon-possessed.” While that may be a true statement for most, it may not be for others. Furthermore, did we have the knowledge of Halloween’s origins when we were little? Perhaps, our knowledge has increased. James 4:17 says, “Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin.” Let us firstly establish the origins of Halloween and later determine if it would be good or bad for us to celebrate it. I will present you with the information and let you decide for yourself.
The most ancient accounts of Halloween were found among the Druids (Celtic Priests) in the British Isles as far back as the Third Century BC. November 1st was considered their New Year celebration but the celebrations began on October 31st. The sun god (Lugh) was given thanks for the harvest, and there was a ritualistic mourning of the coming shorter days of the winter months. It was also one of the four times in the year that bonfires were lit on the hills in honor of Bel, the Biblical [evil] Baal. The Celts believed that on October 31st Samhain (their Lord of the Dead) gathered up all the souls of those who had died in the past year, who had since been confined in animal bodies. In order to appease him, and release the departed souls that they might enter Druid heaven, horses and humans were sacrificed by burning them in wicker cages. (In later European customs, black cats replaced the horses and humans.) Then, in the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1st as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints’ Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween. In the Roman Catholic church, Catholics are called to remember and pray for the souls of deceased family and friends, who are in Purgatory, in order that they may be saved. The belief in Purgatory is not scriptural nor is it acceptable to worship any other gods except the one true God of the Bible. Nonetheless, the aforementioned paragraph teaches us how Halloween originated.
“Hallow” is a term translated, “Holy” – much like we pray in the Lord’s Prayer,“Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name” (see Luke 11:2). But on All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween), what or whom is being regarded as holy? The dark, occultic world marks Halloween as one of their highest “holy days”, but their idea of “holy” is not what God would consider holy. In contrast, scripture mentions holy days (holidays); however, the context of scriptural holy days were Jewish feasts, Sabbaths, and the like. In regards to scriptural holy days, Colossians 2:16 says, “So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths.” You see, Hebrews 8:10 says that God’s laws are written on the hearts of His people; therefore, we will want to do right in order to please Him – instead of keeping a list of rules merely out of duty. One commentary, Barnes Notes on the Bible, puts it like this: “The sense is, that no one had a right to impose their [Jewish] observance on Christians, or to condemn them if they did not keep them. They had been delivered from that obligation by the death of Christ.” This same principle could loosely apply to Halloween; that the Christian should certainly not be condemned or questioned if he or she chooses to abstain from celebrating it. Their motive for choosing to abstain is their way of pleasing to the Lord.
Pastor, husband, and author, Kim Harrington, says this: “Many of the customs surrounding Halloween today are not as innocent as they seem to be, but can be directly linked to its dark past. The roasting of nuts and bobbing for apples are old divination and fortune-telling practices. Even our modern practice of giving treats and candy to children dressed as ghosts and witches is a kind of peace offering — lest they should vandalize our property and play tricks on us. It can also be traced back to the Lord of the Dead, and the sacrifices offered to appease him and his malevolent spirits. Dogs and cats that turn up missing on Halloween may very well have been sacrificed to Satan or some other pagan deity. In many of these meetings the devil is worshipped, Christ is mocked, and God is declared to be dead. No doubt because of these ceremonies and the resultant increase of demonic activity, there is a sharp rise in the crime statistics at this time of year. The Bible condemns all such activities as abominations — one of the strongest words in the vocabulary of God. He is not dead, and He will not be mocked.”
Harrington goes on to say, “Of course, Christians who observe this holiday are not truly taking it seriously. We may be imitating the old rites and rituals, but it’s all done in good humor and means absolutely nothing. At any rate, the true Christian knows that there is only one God — we certainly won’t be burning any bonfires to Baal or Samhain. But do the demons know that? The Apostle Paul seems to be addressing just such a situation in First Corinthians. The believers at Corinth didn’t worship idols, but they did have an association with the idolatrous practices of the day — they bought meat that had been ceremoniously offered to the old gods of wood and stone. Paul told them, ‘What say I then? That the idol or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is anything? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils’ (1st Corinthians 10:19-21). You see, they knew that idols were nothing — and they certainly had no intention of engaging in idolatry themselves –so they felt they could, with a clean conscience, partake of that food. But some things are so spiritually defiling that even an innocent association with them can contaminate you, attract demons, and seriously compromise your Christianity.” Harrington asks a valid question: What does God think about us making a game out of that which has sent untold thousands to Christ-less graves?
On the topic of Halloween, author, David Emery, states: “Obvious similarities suggest at least a notional link between the present-day Halloween custom of wearing costumes and going trick-or-treating and the Medieval practices of ‘mumming’ and ‘going a-souling’. Mumming took the form of wearing costumes, chanting, singing, play-acting, and general mischief making, while souling entailed going door to door and offering prayers for the dead in exchange for treats, particularly soul cakes.”
In regards to the jack-o-lantern, Emery goes on to say, “According to legend, the jack-o’-lantern took its name from a reprobate Irishman known as Stingy Jack who tricked the Devil into promising he wouldn’t have to go to hell for his sins. When Jack died he found out he had been barred from heaven, so he journeyed to the gates of hell to demand his due. The Devil doomed Jack to wander the earth for all eternity with only an ember of hellfire of to light his way. Thenceforth he was known as Jack O’Lantern. It wasn’t until Irish immigrants brought the custom of carving jack-o’-lanterns to North America that the more commonly available pumpkin came to be used for that purpose, and not until the mid-to-late 19th century that pumpkin carving became a Halloween staple across the United States.” Regardless of whether this tradition is real or folkloric, it is safe to say that its origins are dark.
Ghosts, zombies, aliens, evil spirits, paranormal activity, and the like are nothing more than demons masquerading, in order to cause fear. Most people think of a “ghost” as a dead, transparent body floating or walking around, haunting a house. However, the “ghost” is actually a demon or demons. When we think of Halloween, we automatically think of ghosts and zombies. However, if we truly saw them as demons/demonic forces, would we be so apt to celebrate this holiday which has this association? Additionally, Halloween is celebrated at night when it is dark outside. John 3:19 says, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” Also, Isaiah 29:15 says, “How horrible it will be for those who try to hide their plans from the Lord. Their deeds are done in the dark, and they say, ‘No one can see us’ and ‘No one can recognize us.’”
Straight from an Ex-Witch’s Mouth
The following excerpt is by William J. Schnoebelen; a former witch high priest, now saved by Jesus: “An old proverb says, ‘When you sup with the devil, use a long spoon.’ Presumably, NO genuine Christian would want to sup with the devil at all and yet many may be doing so in ignorance. As a former witch high priest, now saved by Jesus, I was astonished by how many Christians let their kids celebrate Halloween. Some churches even sponsor haunted houses and similar events on what is the Number One satanic ‘helliday’ of the year. Halloween is an occasion when the ancient gods (actually demons) are worshiped with human sacrifice.
If you are a Christian parent, God has given you a precious responsibility in your children. Remember, their ability to resist spiritual wickedness is much less than yours. We are commanded not to become involved with the unfruitful works of darkness (see Ephesians 5:11). Both from my experience as a witch, and since getting saved, as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I have seen far too many examples of how breaking this command works out in lives. Remember, while we have God’s promise of protection for ourselves and our children, that promise may not hold if we allow our children to celebrate this dark holiday. Case after case has come to us of children in rebellion. In many of these families, the problem can be traced back to the children being exposed to Halloween at a young age. It is hard enough to raise children these days in a Godly way without exposing them to Satan’s realm.”
An article originally published in the Colorado Christian News says this: “We need to teach our children that the fight isn’t against occultists, non-Christians, Christians who feel differently than we about Halloween, or institutions that promote Halloween; but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places [as stated in Ephesians 6:12]. The ‘Harvest Party’ is usually referred to as the Christian alternative to traditional Halloween. Alternative, however, implies substitute. It assumes our children need something to take the place of Halloween, since they won’t be participating in the secular and pagan celebrations. It suggests our kids are missing out on something.”
Additionally, the aforementioned pastor, Kim Harrington, had this to say about Halloween alternatives: “Early in my ministry as a pastor, we used to have a Halloween party for the children instead of sending them out on the streets. They would dress up as Biblical characters instead of boogie-men; there would be plenty of candy, and they at least wouldn’t feel as though they were missing out on the fun their little neighbors were having. We reasoned that we were now observing Halloween ‘as unto the Lord’ — we were taking some kind of stand, and yet pleasing the children. Actually, we were committing an awful compromise — making holy an unholy day so that no one, Christian or pagan, would be offended. In addition, our children were dressing up as Queen Esther, Solomon, and other departed saints — we were beginning to have our own little All Saints’ Day! It sobered us to see how easily history could repeat itself, even on so small a scale.”
Harrington continues, “We will have no more Halloween parties, or praise bonfires, or any other special activities on this holiday, unless it be a prayer-meeting to engage the forces of darkness in battle. Our children don’t feel cheated when their parents tell them it’s the devil’s holiday and we Christians just don’t observe it. We don’t let them lie, cheat and steal, either; there are certain television shows they don’t watch; and we will encourage them to avoid drugs, alcohol, and promiscuity when they’re a little older — all without feeling cheated. A parent doesn’t have to feel guilty about keeping a child out of Halloween.”
He concludes, “Christmas and Easter have been defiled by pagan traditions down though the years, too, but the true Christian can still worship God with a pure spirit on these occasions. Halloween, however, is without any redeeming quality at all. It is, and always has been, a day associated with dark superstitions and all that is evil and ungodly. In the last few decades, as our land has purposefully distanced itself from the God of Christianity to embrace a more multi-cultural, politically-correct type of spirituality, Halloween has become the second largest holiday of the calendar year.”
Someone once asked, “Would your wife allow you to celebrate one of your ex-girlfriend’s birthdays?” Of course not – because now, you are no longer committed to the ex-girlfriend but to your wife. The same applies to God and our past life of indulging in what we wanted rather than God’s desires. Who is the most important in our lives now? Irrespective of what we did in the past, who are we most concerned about pleasing at this point in our lives? God or ourselves? God gives us the freedom of choice, but He desires people to serve him faithfully, out of love, and not out of obligation. We can’t have it both ways; we must be hot or cold. Revelation 3:16 says, “So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” Remember the old saying: “You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.”
A dearly departed Revivalist, Leonard Ravenhill, once said: “If you’re going to get mature in God, all the dwarfs around you will criticize and sneer at you and say, ‘You’re trying to be holier than the rest of us, eh?’ [But], you’ll discover this – the men who have been most heroic for God have been the men with the greatest devotional life.” Ravenhill went on to say, “We are too earth bound. We see as other men see. We think as other men think… we’re supposed to be a different breed of people.”
The question gets asked so often; if Christians can celebrate Halloween or not. However, if there is an inkling of a doubt that it could be wrong, why chance it? This is a holy God we are dealing with and we should take our decisions seriously. In other words, it is as if we are asking how close we can get to the edge of a mountain without falling off. For the one who desires to please God, there is no temptation to push the envelope. 1st Peter 1:15 says, “But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.”
Galatians 5:16-21: “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you would. But if you be led of the Spirit, you are not under the law [referencing Mosiac Law]. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, impurity, licentiousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, strife, jealousy, wrath, selfishness, divisions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of which I tell you beforehand, as I have also told you in time past, that they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
1st Thessalonians 5:21-22: “Test all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
James 1:27: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
3rd John 1:11: “Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.”
2nd Corinthians 6:14-17: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial [Satan]? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel [unbeliever]? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.”
1st Peter 2:11: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims; abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.”
John 15:18-19: “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.”
1st John 1:5: “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”