Encouraging and Equipping for Victorious Kingdom Living

Let’s Take Another Look at Halloween

Let's Take Another Look at Halloween cover
Let’s Take Another Look at Halloween

As October rushes upon us, young and old begin thinking about Halloween. The stores have been filled with ghosts, goblins, and witches for at least a month already. Soon neighbors will decorate their yards with as much gusto as for Christmas. Halloween is the second most expensive holiday in America, close on the heels of Christmas. Churches, in an effort to stay relevant and perhaps do some outreach offer a wide variety of activities. Some are innocent harvest festivals on a different day; some sponsor what they call non-scary Halloween.

As Christians, how should we think about all of this? Do we cater to the spirit of the age or the Spirit of God? What are our options? Following is an excerpt from my book, Let’s Take Another Look at Halloween. The book also has an extensive section on how Halloween and churches celebrating this holiday impact survivors of profound abuse. If we want to be sensitive to this fragile population, it would be worth reading and considering.

Let’s Take Another Look at Halloween

In October 1995, bowing to pressure from a group of parents, the Los Altos (CA) School Board voted to suspend all Halloween celebrations. The parents charged that Halloween is a religious holiday honoring Satan and therefore, that school celebrations violate the rights of some students. But the cauldron was too hot for the School Board, which reversed its ruling before the day of the Great Pumpkin. Similar scenarios played across the nation.

Meanwhile, churches across the country prepared to offer a “safe alternative” for their neighborhood children, sponsoring Halloween carnivals, haunted houses, Bible masquerades, and dozens of other variations on the theme. Most did so more with an eye toward outreach than toward Scripture.

Christians are confused about Halloween. No wonder. When we Baby Boomers were growing up, Halloween was one of our favorite holidays. We loved dressing up and parading through the neighborhood in search of the ultimate thrill ‑‑ a bag of candy! We squealed with delight when our neighbor feigned fear or pretended not to recognize us. Few imagined it was anything other than a great day for a party.

Then something went wrong. Reports crossed the nation of children poisoned by their Halloween treasure and of razor blades hidden in apples. Local youth and gangs seized the night for malicious mischief. Parents were confused. It wasn’t fair. Or was it?

Actually, the Los Altos parents were right. Halloween is a religious holiday with pagan origins dating to before the birth of Christ. From that day to this, Halloween has been soaked in death, divination, witchcraft, and ritual.

Pagan Origins

Halloween originated in the Celtic festival of Samhain about 2,000 years ago. The Celts were an ancient tribe living in the British Isles and what is now northern France from about 700 B.C. to 200 A.D. They were a fierce, warlike, people, many of whom wore strings of human heads tied on their bridles. Their new year, their most important holiday, began on November 1. Their most sacred festival began the previous evening. It honored Samhain, the Celtic lord of death, and marked the beginning of the season of cold, darkness, and decay. It naturally became associated with human death.

The Celts believed that the dead arose on the eve of Samhain and that ancestral ghosts and demons were set free to roam the earth, return to their earthly homes for the evening, harm crops, and trouble homes. They believed that on this day, they were surrounded by strange spirits, ghosts, witches, fairies, and elves who came out to hurt them. Since spirits were believed to hold the secrets of the afterlife and the future, the Celts believed that on the eve of Samhain, divinations had more power and omens could be read with more clarity than on any other day of the year.[1],[2]

On the evening of the festival, the Druids, the priests, and teachers of the Celts, ordered the people to put out their hearth fires. The Druids then built a huge new year’s bonfire of “sacred” oak branches, in which they burned sacrifices of animals, crops, and sometimes humans in wicker baskets.[3] Then each family relit its hearth fires from the central fire. Today’s jack‑o’‑lanterns are symbols of those fires and torches.[4] The Druids believed that on this night, Samhain judged the dead, sentencing wicked souls to spend 12 months in the bodies of lowly animals.[5] They believed that evil people were reincarnated as cats, their holy animals.[6]

Good souls were also sentenced to another year but were allowed to take the shape of humans.[7] Fearing these spirits, the Celts chose October 31 to sacrifice to their gods, hoping for protection. To deter malicious spirits set free on that night, the Celts disguised themselves in costumes made of animal heads and skins. Other masked villagers tricked the spirits by forming a parade and leading them to the town limits.[8] They told fortunes about the coming year by examining the remains of the sacrifices.[9]

An Open Heaven

The Celts believed that this evening, falling halfway between the fall equinox and the winter solstice, was when the barriers between the human and supernatural worlds were most permeable, allowing the souls of the dead to visit humans and humans to glimpse into other worlds.[10] The Celts believed that evil spirits would come to your house and that you must either treat them or they would trick you.[11] So the candy we now use as a “treat” was a sacrifice, or an offering to appease these spirits.[12]

Today we discount the ignorance and superstition of a people who were so fearful and could only explain their experiences in terms of spirits and gods. But even in 200 B.C., Satan, the god of this world, was blinding the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:4).
Today we discount the ignorance and superstition of a people who were so fearful and could only explain their experiences in terms of spirits and gods. But even in 200 B.C., Satan, the god of this world, was blinding the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:4).

Post-Celtic Celebrations

When the Romans conquered the Celts about 200 A.D., they tried to integrate the Celtic religion and culture into their own. In the 8th century, the Church moved the feast of All Saints, commemorating the dead in Christ, to November 1. The night before became known as All Hallow w’wn or Halloween.

During the Reformation, Protestants thought they could escape the allure of Samhaim by eliminating the observance of saints’ days, including All Saints’ Day. But English Protestants preserved the autumn holiday with Guy Fawkes Day, celebrating the Protestant victory in a gunpowder plot, with bonfires, lanterns carved from hollowed‑out turnips, and mischief. Meanwhile, people in the rest of the British Isles continued to celebrate Halloween.[13] Even as Christians, people seemed to need something to explain death.

Halloween came to America with the Irish immigrants. Through the early days of this country, the holiday continued, influenced, and changed by local traditions. In New England, the people gave great power to witchcraft, culminating in the Salem witch trials in the 1690s. In the South, Halloween blended easily with the influences of the occult and vodoun (voodoo) from Africa.

Halloween in the Occult

Today, Halloween is one of the two highest and most important “unholy” days in Satanism.[14] Satanists sacrifice both animals and humans, during October and especially the Halloween season, from October 13 to November 4.[15]  Halloween is also the most important day in Wicca (witchcraft). It is the day on which witches believe they have the most power.[16]

Churches celebrating a pagan day of death should cause each of us to pause. Isn’t offering a “safe alternative” to an evil holiday a lot like convincing our children that they can practice safe sex by using a condom? It begs the real question. So how do we respond?

A Christian Response

As responsible Christians, we must evaluate our response to Halloween in the light of Scripture. When the teacher of the law asked Jesus, “Which is the greatest commandment?” Jesus replied, “The most important one is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29‑31).

If we’re honest, we know that a holiday dedicated to death, divination, and sacrifice to spirits cannot honor The Most High God. Even calling it a harmless child’s holiday doesn’t excuse the reality that Jehovah is dishonored. Consider the following passages on divination, which are just a few of those that apply here: Leviticus 19:26, Deut. 18:10, 1 Samuel 15, 23, 2 Kings 17:17, 2 Kings 21:6, 1 Chronicles 33:6.

How Much Do We Love?

And what about the second greatest commandment? Traditionally we have underestimated the reality of Satanism and Wicca. Only recently have we seen their fruit as greater numbers of survivors of human trafficking and ritual abuse seek healing in our churches. When these women see their church celebrating and making light of a holiday they know features female and infant sacrifice, it can cause untold emotional damage. And unfortunately, we may not know we have abuse survivors among us until it’s too late. We would never knowingly create a barrier between a physically handicapped person and the church. Yet we do it each Halloween with abuse survivors, most of whom suffer greatly in October, even without their church’s contributions.

Let’s stop celebrating Satan’s holiday, return honor to God, and protect and care for those whose lives have been trampled by the evil worldview. Then let’s teach our children why we are making this decision.

If you would like to know more about Halloween and its impact on survivors of profound abuse, see my book Let’s Take Another Look at Halloween.

[1] Bannatyne, Lesley Pratt 1990. Halloween:  An American Holiday, an American History: Facts on File, Inc.

[2] World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 9, World Books, Inc. 1991, p. 25.

 [3]Scarlara, Robin, Family Christian Academy Newsletter, undated, p. 1.

[4] Scarlara, p. 1.

[5] Bannatyne, p. 4.

[6] “What is Halloween Really All About?” Mt. Zion Bible Church, Pensacola, FL., Nov. 17, 1994, p. 1

[7] Bannatyne, p. 4.

[8]Bannatyne, p. 4 and Scarlara, p. 1

[9]Scarlara, p. 1

[10] Barton, David, “Halloween’s Roots Anything But Children’s Fun and Games,” The Sacramento Bee, October 31, 1991, page A2.

[11] Scarlara, p.1.

[12] Barton, p. A2

[13] Bannatyne, 15-16

[14] Michaelson.

[15] Michaelson, 190.

[16] McDowell, Josh and Don Stewart, Understanding the Occult, San Bernardino: Here’s Life Publishers, 1982, p. 174 in Amstutz, Wendell, Exposing and Confronting Satan and Associates, 5th Edition, Rochester, MN: National Counseling Resource Center, 1992, p.34‑35.

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