Halloween: the Meaning, History and Christian Response

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On October 31st each year people across the country celebrate Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve.  Widely-geared toward young children who enjoy wearing costumes, trick-or-treating and pumpkin carving, Halloween has become the second largest commercially celebrated holiday in America grossing over $8 billion in sales.

Origin & History of Halloween

Halloween’s origin can be found in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced saw-en, meaning ‘end of summer’).  For the Celts who celebrated their new year on November 1st, the day marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter, the end of light and the beginning of darkness, the end of life and the beginning of death.  The Celtic priests, called Druids, made large bonfires on hilltops around which the people gathered and offered sacrifices of crops and animals to the Celtic gods, as a thanksgiving offering for that years’ crops and as an appeal for favor in the new coming year.  Some have speculated that there were also human sacrifices at these bonfires, but modern scholars believe this not to be the case.  This was viewed as a very spiritual time and divination was practiced especially in the form of fortune telling.  It was widely believed that on this night young women especially can find whether they might marry in the coming year and even the identity of their future spouse.

It is also believed that on the eve of Samhain the line between the living and the dead became thin and the spirits of the Otherworld were allowed to roam the earth during this day, both spirits of departed loved ones during the previous year as well as evil spirits of ghouls and fairies looking to cause mischief and damage.  The Celts, hoping for a visit from their departed loved ones, would set a place at the table for them and prepare a feast for them.  They also set treats outside their house for the wandering spirits.  To ward off evil spirits from their households, the Celts were known to set carved pumpkins (or turnips) in front of their doors.  If they went out at night they wore costumes so that if they encountered an evil spirit they would be mistaken for an evil spirit themselves and thus be protected from evil and trouble.

By A.D. 43 the Romans had successfully conquered most of the Celtic lands.  During the next 400 years Samhain was merged with two Roman holidays:  Feralia, a day when Romans commemorated their dead, typically at the end of October, and secondly Pomona, a day of honoring the Roman goddess of fruit and trees.  In 609 A.D. Pope Bonafice IV established the Catholic feast of All Martyrs’ Day in honor of the early Roman martyrs, and this feast was later expanded by Pope Gregory III to include all saints and is still practiced today on November 1st as All Saints’ Day (known also as Hallowtide or All Hallows).  November 2nd is also celebrated as All Souls’ Day mainly to honor the saints and pray for the lives of the recently departed who have not reached heaven yet.  Some of the Halloween traditions can be seen in the festival surrounding All Saints’ Day.  There were traditions of ringing bells for the souls in purgatory; poor people, mostly children, would go from house to house “souling” – they would get ‘soul cakes’ in exchange for prayers for departed loved ones; people even wore costumes in order to protect themselves from wandering souls of the dead.

With the Protestant Reformation in the 16th and 17th century,  Protestant Christians reacted to Catholic Holy Days like All Saints’ Day, primarily over Catholic beliefs considered errors, such as Purgatory. Purgatory derives its name from the idea that there still remains some sin, or impurity, that needs to be purged and cleansed before one is allowed into Heaven. It is therefore considered a holding place for souls not quite fit for heaven, but not so bad that they go to Hell.  Protestant Christians held that after death, no amount of prayers or indulgences – payments made on behalf of departed loved one’s to speed up their time in Purgatory – can help a loved one in this Purgative state.  Instead, many Protestant Christians began to celebrate Reformation Day by providing different options for people who didn’t want to celebrate the Catholic holiday.  Some dressed up in Bible characters or reformers themselves and used the day as an opportunity to gather together and pray and fast.  Today, many Lutheran churches celebrate Reformation Day with the traditional color of red which symbolizes the Holy Spirit and the Martyrs of the Saints.  Martin Luther’s Hymn, ‘A Mighty Fortress is our God’ is traditionally sung and many schoolchildren put on plays reenacting some of the events during the life of Martin Luther.

How do Christians respond to Halloween? 

1. Some Christians reject Halloween altogether.

There are many Christians today that look at Halloween as a pagan holiday during which the devil is worshipped and evil is glorified.  They want nothing to do with the evil out there and will do everything in their power to shield themselves and their children from this devilish holiday.  Many churches have replaced Halloween with Fall Festivals that are more family-friendly and allow a more safe environment and a fun alternative to trick-or-treating.  Some choose to celebrate Reformation Day instead, but Halloween overall is something that must be rejected as a pagan holiday.

2. Some Christians accept it. 

Halloween, they say, is harmless fun, for kids to dress up, get lots of candy and have a good time.  It’s a time for cute decorations, parties, pumpkin carvings, lots of laughter and enjoying going trick-or-treating with their neighbors.  Halloween is, for some, a non-religious festival altogether so they don’t mind assimilating and being no different.

Is there a third way that Christians could potentially respond?  Can Halloween be redeemed?  

 

3. Some Christians redeem it. 

If we as Christians believe that Jesus came to redeem all things, to make all things new, we must answer with a resounding YES!  Jesus says in Revelation 21:5, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Certainly, all things includes Halloween.  But how?  We are sometimes quick to pass judgment or skip over the topic instead of pausing to investigate and have conversations.

If we are quick to reject Halloween altogether, we might miss a couple of things.  First, the assumption tends to be that it’s evil, demonic, worldly.  Jesus did say after all that we should live in the world, and not of it, right?  Right.  But what does that mean?  Does that mean that evil is out there and as long as we close our doors and turn the lights out, evil will stay away?  As Christians we believe that Scripture teaches us that evil is within us.  In Mark 7:21-23, after naming what evil is, Jesus tells us ‘All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.’  It is because we are sinful that we sin (Romans 3:23-25, Romans 7:20).  We could not make ourselves righteous; it is only by the blood of Christ are we seen as blameless in the sight of God (Romans 3:24).  If we can look at Halloween not as a ‘us versus them’, but that we are all sinful in need of grace, maybe we can look at this holiday with more compassion and grace, rather than judgment.

Secondly, we can note some similarities between the old Celtic rituals and the Christian heritage.  Introduced in Leviticus 7:11-15, thanksgiving offerings are found all over the Old Testament where God’s people sacrifice offerings in recognition of how much God had blessed them.  Remember how the Celts put carved turnips in front of their doors so that the evil spirits would pass them by?  Can you think of a story in the Old Testament that reminds you of that?  The Passover, yes, where the spirit of death passed over every Israelite household whose doorpost was marked with the blood of the sacrificed lamb.  But we don’t celebrate those any more, you say.  We don’t have to because Jesus has done it all!  We have been passed over because of the blood of the Lamb.  Imagine if the Christians who came in contact with the Celts long ago would have shared some of the similarities of our histories and pointed them to Jesus, what might have happened in terms of acceptance and faith in Christ, instead of outright rejection or co-opting of a cultural celebration? In Acts 17:22 and following, Paul does this very thing with the Greeks at Athens.  He says, ‘I perceive that you are very religious’ and ‘What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.’ Paul then proceeds to tell the men of Athens about God and what Jesus has done for them. Paul wasn’t afraid of the world out there, but faced it head on because Jesus has overcome the world (Matthew 16:33).

If we are quick to accept Halloween as it is currently practiced, we might fail to care and love our neighbors.  “It’s about the fun and the candy,” so we put a bowl of cheap candy in front of our door and go help our kids bring in the loot!  How can we be the light of the world even amidst the jack-o-lanterns?  We can engage our community.  Christians can practice hospitality – have the best candy so that your house will be the house people come to, and linger!  Get creative – have spiced cider and pumpkin bread for the adults so that you can engage your neighbors in conversation, have a pre trick-or-treat dinner where you can talk about what Halloween means to them.  Go to your neighbors’ houses and get to know them. Be prayerful and present – ask the Spirit to lead you and give you wisdom.

For a Christian, there is no pressure to participate in this holiday.  If your conscience leads you to abstain from participating or focus on the harvest festival parts associated with Halloween, wonderful.  If, on the other hand, your conscience allows you to participate, the Bible gives you the freedom to wisely engage in living on mission even on Halloween.   The apostle Paul tells us that ‘everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial’, and ‘let no one seek his own good but the good of his neighbor’ (1 Corinthians 10:23-33).  In this tricky subject of Halloween, Christians must exercise discernment and be attentive to their conscience.

 

 

costume candy

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The Costume & Candy Kit is a free printable download featuring costume pieces for your kids to dress up as Buck Denver & Sunday School Lady from the What’s In the Bible? series, an All Saints Day activity page and stickers for you to give all your trick-or-treaters a FREE month of JellyTelly!

 

 

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173 comments
nateimo12
nateimo12

No wonder the bible says, my people are destroyed for lack of understanding. Ignorant fools are the ones who argue because of spiritual blindness who do not comprehend the spiritual implication of participating in things that are dark but camouflaged as light. When you allow your kids to participate in darkness you legally open a door for spirits to attach themselves to them. Then when the child starts to rebel against your authority you want to handle the situation in the physical through punishments and so on but you opened that door. Could it be that the daily killings in the land of America is related to spiritual open doors we as believer have allow because we compromised. Saying, "There's no harm in it" Yet there is more harm than the naked eyes can see. The devil loves it when people are blind to spiritual reality. Anyway, I have said enough. God has a remnant of  people who will walk in the wisdom and truth of Gods word.

fmccaston22
fmccaston22

Lol!!! I can't believe some of you. I find it a shame thinking getting candy is a sin. Some of you must have forgot God searches the heart. Bet some of you still get Easter baskets with a eggs and bunnies in it but does that mean you believe in Jesus? No!!!. If someone out there killing cat calling on Satan then I believe that's of the devil. So stop being foolish. We are saved by grace not by deeds. God looks into the heart of every man and women. You only made perfect through Christ nothing you or don't makes you perfect.

Diane Buege Buendia
Diane Buege Buendia

That passage is not talking about pagan rituals. The Bible is very clear about abstaining completely from such things. You are free to do whatever you want & you should never make your decision based upon what another person is doing. You should, however, dig deep in your Bible & really research this topic.

Diane Buege Buendia
Diane Buege Buendia

I'm not shaming anyone, but if you're going to comment on MY comment I am going to respond with truth.

Michelle Buck
Michelle Buck

If I find joy in Halloween why should I not participate? Because you don't? I think Halloween is fun and last I checked all holidays have pagan beginnings.

Michelle Buck
Michelle Buck

Please tell me how I am twisting this passage? If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? 31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

Michelle Buck
Michelle Buck

Aren't you also doing the same? Seriously. If you feel convicted by it then don't participate. Why shame those of us who actually find joy in it? And there is no verse that says "thou shall not participate in Halloween".

Diane Buege Buendia
Diane Buege Buendia

Not true Michelle, you are manipulating scripture to make it mean what you want

Michelle Buck
Michelle Buck

Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink...do all to the glory of God. I think that's in 2 Corinthians. And giving to my neighbors and loving them is biblical. It's only evil if you make it evil.

Michelle Buck
Michelle Buck

Every holiday is evil because sin is everywhere. Might as well not walk outside your door in the morning. Lol

Diane Buege Buendia
Diane Buege Buendia

We don't celebrate, nothing about it glorifies God & the history is evil. Where does the Bible say it's ok to participate in evil as long as you believe you're glorifying God. We celebrate Reformation Day instead.

Allen Santonia
Allen Santonia

Christians must not participate in halloween 2 Corinthians 6:14

Angeline Muriuki
Angeline Muriuki

It just doesn't augur well with my Christian beliefs...don't celebrate it, can't celebrate it...

Evi Giakoumi
Evi Giakoumi

5. His mother said into the servants (the ones in sin, servants, not free) 'whatsoever he said into you do it!'

Evi Giakoumi
Evi Giakoumi

CHAPTER 2 AND the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: 2 And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. 3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. 4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. 5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. 6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. 7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. 9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, 10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. 11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him. From the gospel according to John, Jesus thought His time hadn't come. However in the Father's perfect timing, after He had baptised His beloved Son, the first miracle is the one every Christian must remember if nothing else from Bible, the fact He is coming back an wants His bride spotless

Evi Giakoumi
Evi Giakoumi

True sister! And how prepared for His second coming are we? We re in so much darkness and simply unaware what Jesus signifies who He really is how much He loves us!

Evi Giakoumi
Evi Giakoumi

I agree sons and daughters of God glory to Him are reborn every day I just fail to see how Halloween would ever inspire anyone to follow Jesus who is the Way the Truth and the Life. Halloween is all about scare darkness and pain

Evi Giakoumi
Evi Giakoumi

How does celebrating Halloween prepares me as a believe for His second coming? Won't I be like the foolish bride who forgot to put oil in her lamp?

Evi Giakoumi
Evi Giakoumi

First miracle prophesied the marriage of the lamb to His church upon His pending return therefore performed at a wedding

Evi Giakoumi
Evi Giakoumi

Thanks Marlene for the fantastic resource, I should buy it for my children as understandably I am not a popular mummy at the moment especially seeing many friends going all out withit, costumes parties etc! Yes kids love it all Christmas Halloween etc any excuse for parties and sweets. But IF you want to have a true walk with Jesus you must put HIM above all else! Halloween not celebrated here, as for Christmas yes we out up tree as the kids like it but we also put the nativity scene at the bottom. There are animals and angels and together with the tree they celebrate the birth of the holy one! And although we do get hooked up in presents and all material things I do try to pass on the message to them what Christmas and Easter are really about. We go to church so I feel it would be two timing if we also went trick or treating. But I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion but that is besides the point as our rewards are in heaven and by condemning or saying well done one to another...

KenRhonda Colson
KenRhonda Colson

Since Halloween is a contraction for All Hallow's Eve, the Eve of All Saints Day, it can be seen in the same light as Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve. According to scripture, all of us who have trusted Jesus as Savior are Saints. Therefore, All Saints Day is a day to celebrate God's family. Most of the time, there is a party on the Eve of a holiday (Holy Day). In this case, getting together for a party on All Hallow's Eve makes perfect sense. For costumes, Biblical characters are a terrific idea, or men and women of renown who have taken a stand for Christ (C.S. Lewis, John Bunyon, etc.). Yes, I agree with those who have said we need to redeem calendar events. My father-in-law died suddenly on Oct. 26. 24 years later, our oldest grandson was born on Oct. 26. The date has been redeemed from sad memories to a day of rejoicing. Let's do the same with Halloween. Our unsaved friends and neighbors are much more likely to hang out with us for the purpose of celebrating with us if they see us celebrating. And in the fun and fellowship, the Holy Spirit may have prepared just such a gathering to be the time and place for a new child of God to be born. Believers need to be like Jesus; His first miracle was performed in a party setting!

Valentina Salazar
Valentina Salazar

Decorative paganism of any sort is ungodly, yet everything we do we act upon impulse and/or superficiality, using competitive instinct. So where do we draw the line? Not a thing belongs to us. Everything belongs to GOD. How prepared are we really and how much are we prepared to give up for JESUS? Turn to GOD for guidance and instruction.

Emily Grotts
Emily Grotts

There are plenty of Christian people who celebrate Halloween with only candy and costumes but it's all in good fun. Most holiday celebrations have lost their original meaning with commercialism and may even have pagan roots. The Christmas most know is centered around pagan holiday celebrating trees and to think Christians gladly adorn their homes with trees, give gifts, etc. Let's tell Christians to reject that too because it's not Christian, and tell the church to not display Christmas trees.

Lynn Boucher
Lynn Boucher

Um I don't like some of the things mentioned here. I've heard something before that was negative, but this shares a bit more. So if you want to read up on this Angela Burgel, your choice. I know my little grandchildren usually go out just for fun & candy, I may be wrong but if that's all they do, they're not believing in spirits being around and pleasing the gods - we all believe in one God, God of the Bible!

Evi Giakoumi
Evi Giakoumi

I am sorry but you miss he point tragically in this article: being a good neighbour doesn't mean that you have to agree with your neighbours to be liked and get brownie points, if your neighbour wants to enter the family of the one true God you can also lead them in the way by the true Christian example, all Christians should reject Halloween altogether!

Stuart Lourensen
Stuart Lourensen

Christians celebrating halloween is like a Jew celebrating Hitler's birthday. Paul did not worship the idols at Mars Hill but he did use it to reach the Greeks with the gospel.

Mary A. Laughead
Mary A. Laughead

We used to give gospel tracts and the best candy to trick or treaters - the best candy because you want to associate the best with Jesus ;). Love it when little ones come to my door and leave with Jesus!!

Cindy Laney
Cindy Laney

Our church and many in the area have trunk or treat, hot chocolate and share the Lord's love.

Marlene Ramirez Gallman
Marlene Ramirez Gallman

We Choose to Honor The Lord above all. We have nothing to miss out of a celebration that has nothing to do with The Lord. Not a chance to open a door to evil. It is Black or White for us. Not grey! It is written: Isaiah 5:20. WWJD? share the Gospel as He did Everyday or Be a participant?

Martha Shaw
Martha Shaw

Every day is a day the Lord has made and we shall be glad and rejoice in it. Satan or evil does not get its own day. Halloween is fun and ok for christians.

Mi Rey
Mi Rey

no, is not possible, try to do it is like Saul disobedience when Samuel ask him what is that noise of cows?

Emielou Guzon Curaza
Emielou Guzon Curaza

Halloween does not bring glory to God. True believer of Christ should not celebrate or participate halloween at all.

Pastor Patty
Pastor Patty

Our church offers a "meet and greet" night- do we celebrate Halloween? NO- we participate in trick or treat night.There is a difference. Our neighbors are out in full force. This is a night that we turn on all of the lights of the church and give the families in our neighborhood a chance to meet us and we can show God's light on this day that many say is full of darkness. We invite people into the church and have gospel movies, food, candy and games for the kids and their families.  I think that many including Heather Mango are against Halloween, but then the end of her post talks about being a light and not hiding in your dark house. This is one of the best nights to let your light so shine!! I actually stay at my house and meet my neighbors. All of my lights are on and I'm a welcoming house for the little kids who are just looking for some candy! Be a light! 

Becki Rutledge
Becki Rutledge

That's the worst argument for Halloween I've seen. It's fun? So it's OK? Really??

Becki Rutledge
Becki Rutledge

This is the worst article I've read on What's in the Bible and I'm very disappointed to see it posted again. Christ did not come to redeem Satan. Why would we? It's a lousy excuse to be in the world AND of the world. What has been redeemed by this trying to redeem Halloween? Anything? I think not.

MarleneRamirezGallman
MarleneRamirezGallman

Amen!  Well Said! How Ironic they are called "What's in the Bible?"   And they can't show any Bible verse that proves us wrong for not participating.  Oppositely,  the Bible tells so Many verses to support we are not to participate in it.  


Jesus Breaths
Jesus Breaths

(John 8:7) he who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.

(Luke 5:32) JeSus said that I came not for the righteous but for the lost.

People of God, seek God for one's

Self, know God on your own personal

Level. God will deal with each man according

To the grace that God has given. Here is the real truth... Has anyone tried to stop celebrating Halloween but couldn't? Why do you think that is? Did anyone proclaim salvation without being Called? Why do you think that is?

If you are a true Christian, you will hear the call of God to either stop celebrating Halloween or are not be condemned by it. Amongst us should be no quarreling or unfruitful conversation.

Our Job is to lead people back to Christ so that he could deal with the matters of every man's heart.

God bless