Driving around any American city during the weeks leading up to Halloween can be an interesting thing. You’ll see cartoon characters dressed as pumpkins and witches, giant painted spiders in huge synthetic webs, and trash bag ghosts dancing around trees.
And you will easily find that one house, you know the one, transformed into hellish displays of demonic horror. Finding the simple lawn-turned-graveyard is becoming more and more difficult. Morbid scenes from some of the most perverse horror films have long replaced Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin.
And sometimes it’s entire neighborhoods.
That bothers some people, while others are completely entertained by it. And our children are expected to walk through this and ask for free candy, while the remaining 364 days in the year you probably discourage evil, shield their eyes from horror, and teach them to never, ever take candy from a stranger. Are you good with that?
Where does Halloween really come from and how should Christians respond to it?
Where Halloween Began
Parentalia was a 9 day feast honoring ancestors with the intent of appeasing the restless spirits of the dead. Parentalia formally took place in February, but it was observed at the individual family level throughout the year.
Pomona was the Roman goddess of orchards and fruit trees and the holiday included nuts and apples. Later Celtic celebrations, and our own Halloween traditions of bobbing for apples and apple cider originate from this ancient Roman day. Ancient lore also says that Pomona shut herself in an orchard and refused to allow men inside, so Vertumnus, the Roman god of seasons, disguised himself to gain access to the orchard so he could see Pomona.
Typically though, our modern Halloween finds its roots among the Gaelic nations as the holiday Samhain (pronounced saw-win). Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of Autumn. Because the Romans had conquered most of the Celtic people by 43 A.D., many people believe that elements of the Roman holiday of Pomona was combined with the Celtic Samhain festival.
According to Gaelic tradition, Samhain was a time for the Aos Si (ees-shee), or faerie spirits of former gods and the spirits of the dead. During Samhain, these spirits would occupy the countryside looking for a human body to inhabit.
Divination and the Origin of Trick or Treat
People would leave offerings of food, drink, or crops to the Aos Si and would set an empty place at the dinner table. This was for the expected visitation of dead relatives that once lived in their homes while they were alive.
Following this meal, people would have a full night of festivities with games and bonfires. This is when they would use divination to try to interpret one’s future and apply cleansing and protective powers over their lives.
The practice of dressing up in disguise and going from house to house asking for food began around the 16th century among the Celtic people.
The disguised people would recite poems or sing songs in exchange for food. Their costumes were to trick others into thinking they were the Aos Si who had come to receive their offering in exchange for good luck.What's the real story behind Halloween and how should Christians relate to it?Click To Tweet
Christian Origins of Halloween
Ironically, Christianity has been crossing paths with Halloween in it’s various forms for centuries. There’s a ton of people who can’t agree whether All Hallows Evening began as a Christianized version of Samhain, or if it was completely separate from the beginning.
We do know that modern day Halloween has a lot in common with it’s predecessors. Costumes, trick-or-treating, bonfires, pumpkin carving, apple bobbing, and horror attractions to name a few.
Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?
You would think we would find an easy, clear-cut Biblical answer to this question. What does the Bible say about Halloween? Nothing at all. So is that a complete green light for the Christian to celebrate this holiday? Well, that is for you to decide.
Let’s face the facts. No matter how much we try to commercialize, force innocence, or make light of the holiday, Halloween has its origins firmly rooted in the occult. Halloween carries an intense tradition of divination, death, and pagan gods. For the Christian, these things are not to be taken lightly. The Bible teaches that we are to “Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
On the other hand, there are no Biblical mandates saying we can’t dress up in costumes and receive candy from our neighbors.
Trying to answer the question should Christians celebrate Halloween is difficult. Some say we should totally abstain from Halloween, lock our doors and keep our lights off. Others say Christians should counter the evil of the holiday by hosting the best get-togethers in town.
It becomes a matter of the heart and a question of motives, and each person has to answer that for themselves.Should Christians celebrate Halloween?Click To Tweet
Christians and Halloween
It’s perfectly normal if you’re saddened or even disgusted by some of the blatantly evil displays of Halloween. For the Christian, according to Scripture, we shouldn’t participate in Halloween parties with a focus on the evil displays of Halloween.
It’s also probably not the right choice to isolate ourselves from the unbelieving world on a holiday when we have such an opportunity to be the salt and the light that we are called to be.
Like many things, perhaps the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Perhaps what Jesus prayed in John 17, “being in the world but not of it” is applicable here.
The difficulty is being fair to modern society and understanding that most people have no clue about the pagan origins behind Halloween. However, our culture doesn’t get such an easy pass on the evil of the holiday. You and I both know full well that evil is celebrated not only on Halloween, but all year long by the entertainment industry.
Personally, I despise everything about Halloween. Realistically though, I should not allow my personal feelings to get in the way of an opportunity to shine with the love of Christ, which has already overcome the world (John 16:33; 1 John 5:4-5).
I don’t have to embrace the darkness or the traditions of Halloween, and I won’t. At the same time, I won’t allow my distaste for it to get in the way of what I am called to do. Love God, love my neighbor.