Last year, I wrote a newsletter to friends and family concerning Halloween. For myself personally, this has always been an important oversight by the Christian populace, and consequently I felt strongly compelled to share my “unpopular” take on Halloween. This is a message every Christian and non-Christian alike needs to read before getting out the Halloween decorations.
The neighbor’s houses, Cracker Barrels, Walmarts, etc. have all donned the marks of Halloween (in the case of Cracker Barrel, since the beginning of September!) — the cobwebs, deviously smiling pumpkins, haunting black figures hanging from the tree limbs…
Halloween is the second highest grossing “holiday” in the US, second only to Christmas. I do not wish to spoil the remainder of this blog, but I find it greatly ironic that Christmas — the celebration of the Incarnation, Sacrifice, and Santification of our Dear Savior — is followed in revenue by Halloween — the celebration of all that is dead and decaying. But as I said, I would like to follow with a more informative discussion of this “holiday” we know as Halloween.
Pumkins, lanterns, and…Catholicism?
Halloween means hallowed or holy evening — an alternate name for the Roman Catholic holiday called All Hallow’s Eve, which is the day before the traditional All Saint’s Day. However, the roots of the holiday are actually based in the practices and traditions of the Celtics — an Irish people led by the Druids. The Druids were a league of witch priests who gave the country spiritual “guidance” through sorcery, witchery, divination, and seances (communication with the dead through mediums).
On November the 1st, the Druids ordained a celebration of the dead known as the Samhain, which culminated with the order to quench all fires in the land; the Druids then built what was to be the largest bonfire in the land as a symbol of the power of the Celtic deities. During this time, it was believed that the souls of the dead from the otherworld were able to mingle with the living — the dead, demons, and spiritual entities were unleashed.
When Catholic missionaries to Ireland attempted to Christianize the nation, they met with little success as a result of the influence of the Druids. Consequently, the Pope advised that the Catholic holidays be made to coincide with the Celtic holidays, and that the Celtic deities and traditions be made to vaguely resemble Catholic customs. The result was our modern day Halloween; in effect, the only Catholic part of the “holiday” is the date — the customs were virtually unmodified, and only a few Catholic elements were added to the celebration.
From the Samhain, we inherit the Halloween customs: the “sacred” black cat was believed to have been a human who was punished for offenses against the deities; the Jack o’ Lantern was a ghostly figure who was kept out of the Celtic “Hell” for trickery and remained to haunt the earth. Needless to say, the witches, demons, ghosts, etc. came from the Druidic practices of witchery, divination, and demonic possession.
Now that we have some historical context, let us observe some popular modern day traditions that make up the celebration.
Trick or Treating: this popular activity is loosely derived from the Catholic tradition of Souling, when Catholic families would prepare a form of shortbread, called “Soul bread,” and gift it to the beggars who would go door to door. The beggar would plead for the bread, and in turn would pray blessings on the household and a shorter period in purgatory.
“Soal, a soal, a soal cake, please good missus a soul cake. An apple, a pear, a plum, a cherry, Any good thing to make us all merry, One for peter, two for paul, three for him who made us all.”
The modern origin of the term is quite simply based in the phrase: a trick, or a treat. Halloween was once a dangerous (physically!) celebration because pranksters and mischievous individuals would go from house to house requesting a treat from the household. If they were refused, they threatened terror and damage to the property of the unrelenting household. Not long after the celebration became popular in the US, it was not uncommon to behold serious damage — in some cities, the police were necessarily on duty to help prevent arson and property damage. There was also risk for the tricksters — on occasion, the “treats” were poisoned or laden with razors, pins, etc.
Costumes and Masks: next to trick or treating, this is perhaps the most common element of Halloween. Fundamentally, it is rooted in the Celtic Samhain — in an attempt to ward off the spirits and demons who were able to mingle with the living on the Samhain, the people would disguise their identity as creatures, spirits, and ghosts with the aid of costumes and masks. It was believed that these disguises prevented the dead from recognizing the bearer as human or a former enemy.
Bonfires: perhaps not as popular as the aforementioned tradition, but the term tends to generically refer to a large outdoor gathering around a fire. The bonfire is of course from the Celtic Samhain — on that night, the souls of those who had died that year were to join their companions in the otherworld; to encourage the spirits to take their leave and simultaneously ward off the demons that came back to haunt the living, the people would build bonfires and sacrifice dead animals in them.
Even now, bonfires are an important custom in Wicca, the leading organization for the witchcraft community. Nine types of wood are used to represent nine fundamental “powers” in paganism and burned as a symbol of consecration.
The Bottom Line
As Christians, how should we approach Halloween? When I look at the origins, customs, symbols, and meaning of Halloween, several themes stand out: the worship of death, glorification of decay, debauchery, and dabbling in demonic influence.
To be frank, there is no redeeming element in the symbols of Halloween — the black cat and carved pumpkin symbolize Celtic damnation; trick or treating and costumes (even costumes that don’t involve skeletons or witchcraft) represent fear of the demons and their unconquerable influence and the custom of hiding from them; skeletons, spiders, ghosts, cobwebs, zombies, tombstones, witchcraft, barren land, darkness — these all glorify fear and death, and ultimately the lover of death: Satan himself!
Whereas Christmas is the celebration of Life in Christ, Halloween is the worship of death in Satan. Why consider joining the world in this ultimately pagan, hopeless Satanic revelry?
Halloween is a sacred night…but not for Christ’s followers. Wicca and other witchcraft organizations around the world gather to “pray” over the evening — Halloween is not just a day to them; there is spiritual warfare on that night!
As such, let us resist and rebuke the demons of Hell which the Satanically influenced incant on us! Let us be branded with the Fear of God on that night, and worship the only One who offers us Life!
There is a Godly alternate holiday that unfortunately has been laid wayside over the years. October 31st is significant in the life of Christians for a hope-filled reason!
On October 31st, 1517 the German professor and monk Martin Luther posted on the Wittenberg church door his Ninety-Five Theses, a series of essays debating the Biblicality of several Catholic doctrines. We now remember this date as the start of the Reformation and birth of the Protestant Church.
Such an important event in church history ought to be celebrated as such. This year, celebrate October 31st as the start of new life through Christ and the revelation of Himself through the unequivocal Word of the Living God!
What You Can Do
You can share this information with your friends, family, and neighbors through word-of-mouth, or with an informational sheet. Last year, I went door to door and gave the neighbors my informational sheet. It’s a little nerve racking, but you might be surprised how many neighbors will discuss it with you.
However, be prepared for a few to get angry or just downright cold. I had my share of cold shoulders and irrational outbursts just from mentioning the informational sheet. The public at large is not taught to civilly discuss sensitive issues.
I hope you all have an awesome and blessed Reformation Day — if you have any comments, suggestions, or stories of what you do for Reformation Day, let me know! I’d love to hear your ideas as well.