Halloween. Everyone’s favorite holiday. The day when fall and ghosts and witches come together. Halloween has its own unofficial month – the whole month of October. The whole month is filled with fall parties, Pumpkin Spice lattes, decorating for fall, and incorporating spooky decor.
Even in the Church, Christians are selecting their favorite Halloween movies, planning the perfect Halloween outfit, and going to their friends’ Halloween parties. On the day of Halloween, we see on social media all our favorite pastors, worship leaders, and influencers showcasing their children’s Halloween costumes. At the church, I used to go to, one year the two weeks before Halloween was dedicated to a zombie theme. The church was decorated with spiders’ webs and zombie decor. There was even a haunted house tent connecting to the church, where if you walked through, church volunteers dressed as zombies would try to scare you as you walked into the church.
Halloween has become a day that most people love. It has become a day that is looked forward to, or a special day because a Christian couple met at a Halloween party. But should this day be just as special to the Christian, as to the unbeliever? Should this day be advocated by the church, and incorporated into sermons as harmless?
Is Halloween a day that Christians should celebrate? Is this a holy day as the name implies? Should this day be used to witness and share the gospel with others? Or should Christians have an alternative?
Where does the name Halloween come from?
“The word Halloween or Hallowe’en dates to about 1745 and is of Christian origin. The word “Hallowe’en” means “Saints’ evening.” It comes from a Scottish term for All Hallows’ Eve (the evening before All Hallows’ Day).” The term All Hallows’ Eve dates to 1556 (Wikipedia “Halloween“).
The History, Customs, and Traditions of Halloween
The customs and traditions of Halloween are rooted in the pagan beliefs and traditions of many Celtic-speaking countries of Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, etc and are linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain (Sow- win).
The Festival of Samhain
Samhain was an ancient Celtic festival that was held from October 31 – November 1st. It was a day to welcome the harvest and to celebrate the coming of the darker half of the year, falling in the midpoint of the fall equinox and the winter solstice. This was the day when the spiritual world was thought to be made visible. A time when the gods played tricks on people and supernatural events occurred more often. The Celts believed that they needed to appease the gods to have a safe winter.
It was mandatory that the whole community attended, and failure to attend was believed to result in illness or death, as punishment from the gods.
The Celtics would dress up as monsters, and animals at the festival, believing that the gods would not be tempted to kidnap them if they were in costumes.
Creatures associated with Samhain mythology include shape-shifting creatures, a headless woman accompanied by a black pig, headless men on horses who carried their heads. Creatures who kidnapped people and others who entered houses and stole men’s souls.
Jack – o – Lanterns
By the time of the Middle Ages bonfires were popular to light at the festival to protect families from fairies and witches. People hollowed-out turnips and put a light in them, which comes from the Irish fable of Stingy Jack. Hollowed out turnips or fields beets were carved with grotesque faces and were used as lanterns on windowsills. They were to represent spirits or supernatural beings and used to ward them off. The practice later evolved to using pumpkins.
The name comes from an Irish legend of a drunkard named Stingy Jack. He had made a bargain with the devil and was forced to roam the earth using only a hollowed-out turnip to light his way (Wikipedia “Jack-O-Lantern“).
Ancestors and Divination
The souls of the dead were thought to come back and would seek refuge in their relatives’ homes during the Samhain festival. Relatives would set the table for them and have a feast in their honor. Games and divination were very much a part of this festival day. It was a day filled with feasting, drinking, and contests. Apple bobbing and roasting hazelnuts were used for divination in regards to death and marriage (Wikipedia “Samhain-Historic Customs“).
Bobbing for apples
“The tradition of bobbing for apples dates back to the Roman invasion of Britain when the conquering army merged their own celebration with traditional Celtic festivals. The Romans brought with them the apple tree, a representation of the goddess of plenty, Pomona (Wikipedia “Apple Bobbing“).”
Costumes and Dressing up
The ancient Celts dressed up to protect themselves from the gods, spirits, and witches. This practice of dressing up later turned into fun and games.
People would go door to door dressed up to perform a song or a short play in exchange for food. The costumes would protect/ disguise yourself from the ‘spirits’. Many of the young men during the festival cross-dressed, went house to house masked, veiled, or with painted faces threatening to misbehave if they were not welcomed. It was also very common to play pranks or tricks during the festival (Wikipedia “Samhain-Historic Customs“).
Is Halloween a Christian Holiday?
A few years ago, a friend from the church had that zombie theme, told me that Halloween was a Christian holiday. I was shocked that someone would suggest that a day surrounding death, witches and spirits could be seen as Christian.
However, through research, we see that the contemporary celebration of Halloween, especially by the Church, is a result of two Catholic holidays. All Saint’s day and All Soul’s day celebrated November 1 and 2nd respectively.
“All Saint’s day, All Hallows’ Day, Hallowmas, or the Feast of All Saints is a holy day celebrated every November 1st dedicated to the recognized saints of the Catholic church and those who made it into heaven. It is celebrated by attending Mass, honoring the saints by visiting their holy shrines, and offering prayers seeking their intercession. ”
All Souls’ Day is celebrated by attending Mass, visiting cemeteries, or shrines dedicated to loved ones and ancestors. The day is spent praying for the souls of our ancestors and for the intercessions of the saints for them to be ushered into heaven (Catholic “All Saint’s Day“).
In short, All Saints Day and All Souls Day are both days, wherein Catholicism, we are to pray to saints on behalf of our ancestors so that they can enter heaven and so that the saints can intercede on our behalf.
Contradicting the Bible?
Right away we see that the “Christian” version of Halloween is directly contradicting the Bible. How can we pray for our relatives if we are appointed once to die, then after is the judgment? The dead cannot praise the lord and they do not know anything anymore. Therefore they cannot intercede for us, being that there is only one intercessor between us and God, Jesus Christ. On top of that necromancy is strictly forbidden in the Torah!
Ib’rim (Hebrews) 9: 12
“And as it awaits men to die once, and after this the judgment.”
Tehilim (Psalms) 115: 17 – 18
“17 The dead shall not praise thee, O Lord, nor any that go down to Hades. 18 But we, the living, will bless the Lord, from henceforth and forever.”
Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes) 9: 5 – 6
“5 For the living will know that they shall die: but the dead know nothing, and there is no longer any reward to them; for their memory is lost 6 also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, have now perished; yea, there is no portion for them any more forever in all that is done under the sun.”
Timotiyos Aleph (1 Timothy) 2: 5
“For there is one Elohim, and one Mediator between Elohim and men, the Man Messiah Yeshua.”
Debarim (Deuteronomy) 18: 10 – 12
“10 There shall not be found in thee one who purges his son or his daughter with fire, one who uses divination, who deals with omens, and augury, 11 a sorcerer employing incantation, one who has in him a divining spirit, and observer of signs, questioning the dead. 12 for everyone that does these things is an abomination to the Lord thy God; for because of these abominations the Lord will destroy them from before thy face.”
All Saints’ Day was originally celebrated on May 13th in Rome. This was the day when the ancient Romans celebrated their own festival of the dead called the Lemuria festival or the Feast of the Lemures. It was a day believed when the spirits of restless dead relatives would haunt and terrify their living relatives. To prevent this from happening, the father of every family would arise at midnight, purify his hands, say some enchantments, and toss black beans to the spirits so that they would leave (Encyclopedia Britannica “Lemures”).
This day was chosen by the Catholic Church under Pope Boniface IV ( 609/ 610 AD ) to “Christianize” this Roman day of the dead. The idea was that the focus of this day would now be to honor the Virgin Mary and the martyrs (Wikipedia Lemuria Festival).
Over a hundred years later, All Saint’s day came to include all the saints, during the dedication of a chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica by Pope Gregory III 731 – 741 AD on November 1st. This was how the date of All Saint’s Day came to be celebrated during the Samhain festival and is celebrated on this day until now. The Catholic Church during this time tried to “Christianize” many pagan traditions and practices. Just as we saw with the change of the Sabbath day, we cannot change God’s ordinances to fit our own. In the case of Halloween, it is clearly pagan and is something that wasn’t God-ordained, to begin with.
Should Christians Celebrate Alternatives to Halloween?
This is the question that has been answered in numerous blog posts, but I believe the reasoning is wrong. Many of the blog posts I saw said that Christians should celebrate Halloween. Many saying that Halloween should be celebrated in the same way as everyone else, to use this day as a ministry opportunity, or to celebrate a Christian version, such as a Fall Harvest celebration or a “Trunk or Treat”.
One article said that Jesus would have been giving out Gospel tracts to “trick or treaters”. I highly doubt it, since He was angry that the Hebrews had been selling animals and things needed for the Temple sacrifices inside the Temple when He turned over the money changers tables. On the outside looking in, it looked like they were doing a good thing, having everything you needed for the Temple sacrifices right at the Temple. However, Jesus didn’t see it that way. I highly doubt that Jesus would have participated in a pagan holiday if He had a problem with the money changers at the Temple (Matthew 21: 12 – 13).
But I think that all the suggestions for Christians to celebrate Halloween in some capacity are all ways of trying to “Christianize” this unholy day. It is not a day for us or made by us and we shouldn’t feel bad about not celebrating it. This is a day that the Celtics created to celebrate their pagan beliefs. It is a day that Wiccans still highly esteem. Wiccans invite the dead to their festival. They believe this time of year it is easy to communicate with the dead (Wikipedia “Samhain- Wicca”).
We are called to Live Separate
God called us to be separate from the world and not to do the things of the gentiles. We are to live a holy and set apart life. How can we do that if we are doing everything that the unbelievers are doing? Living our lives the same, believing the same things, saying the same things?
Ib’rim (Hebrews) 12: 14
“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:”
Wayyiqra (Leviticus) 19: 2
“Speak to the congregation of the children of Israel, and thou shalt say to them Ye shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy.”
Debarim (Deuteronomy) 14:2
“For thou art a holy people to the Lord thy God, and the Lord thy God has chosen thee to be a peculiar people to himself of all the nations on the face of the earth.”
Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 10: 2 – 5
“2 Thus saith the Lord, learn ye not the ways of the heathen, and be not alarmed at the signs of the sky; for they are alarmed at them, falling on their faces. 3 For the customs of the nations are vain; it is a tree cut out of the forest, the work of the carpenter, or a molten image. 4 They are beautified with silver and gold, they fix them with hammers and nails; 5 they will set them up that they may not move;”
Instead of trying to create alternatives to Halloween, we should look to the Bible to see what God told us to celebrate instead. In the Torah we see that God gave us 7 High Holidays to celebrate throughout the year – Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Yom Teruah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. Sukkot is the celebration of the fall harvest occurring in late September/ early October. It is an eight-day feasting holiday remembering the time the Hebrews were dwelling in tents in the wilderness. It is also believed that Jesus was born during this holiday. We should learn about the holidays and feast days of the Lord that we never learned about and observe them. Shalom.