Celebrating Halloween?

Halloween is just around the corner, and usually the holiday brings to mind cute little kids running around the neighborhood in adorable costumes and shyly asking neighbors for candy. Right? Halloween is largely viewed as an innocent holiday for kids these days, an opportunity to dress up and get alot of candy.

However, I think everyone would agree that there is a darker side to Halloween. The word also brings to mind images of ghosts and monsters, skeletons and witches. Some people would say that all this is just in good fun - there's nothing wrong with a little scare to get your adrenaline pumping. It's exciting to be frightened every now and then. Right?

I think there is one phrase that I associate with Halloween that often gets overlooked.

How did Halloween start anyway? I'm not sure the general public is aware of the holiday's origins.

Allow me to offer you a brief summary of the ancient history of Halloween.

Halloween actually started with the ancient Celts, way back before Christianity had even started to spread across Europe. It was actually called Samhain then, and was the last day of the year in the Celtic calendar. It was believed that on the night of October 31st, the "veil" that separated the spiritual world and the physical world was at it's thinnest. They believed that on October 31st ghosts would roam the earth and wreak havoc on crops and people. In order to avoid being recognized by these ghosts, the Celts would only go outside on the day of Samhain wearing ghoulish masks to disguise themselves, so that the spirits would think the humans were one of them (the beginning of the tradition of costumes on Halloween). The Celts left offerings of food on their doorsteps so that the spirits wouldn't give them trouble (the origin of Trick or Treating, by the way), and carved Jack-o-lanterns to scare the spirits away from their homes. The druid priests created large fires to sacrifice the bones of animals that they didn't believe would survive the winter, which apparently sometimes included human bones (interestingly this is the origin of the word "bonfires" - bone fires). This was a sacrifice to the Celtic gods and goddesses and was meant to keep the evil spirits away. The Celtic priests would also perform divination on that evening, because it was believed that they could see the future more clearly on that day.

I decided to do this research on the history of Halloween, because I wanted to explain why Derek and I don't celebrate it. The words that I associate with Halloween in my mind are "spiritual darkness". The origins of the holiday are all about fear, rituals, and divination. The Bible states very clearly that "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7), and that "perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18). We are also told to think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). Do death, witches, ghosts, monsters, devils, fear and all the associated horrors of Halloween really fit that criteria? I don't think they do.

It's true that the holiday is largely celebrated innocently in modern days - but then again, is it really? Every aspect of Halloween that could be deemed "innocent" has it's origins in the pagan beliefs of the ancient Celts. So what are we really celebrating when we dress up our kids in scary costumes and take them out to get candy from strangers? I think we're celebrating paganism.

(In light of the comments conerning that last statement, I just wanted to clarify that I am not saying that everyone who celebrates Halloween is deliberately choosing to celebrate paganism. I wouldn't presume to judge anyone's heart like that, and I don't think that is the case for most people. The point I am trying to make is that paganism and darkness are at the core of this holiday, regardless of the reasons individuals choose to celebrate it.)

I would also like to point out that this ancient pagan religion is not dead - during my research on the history of Halloween I came across sites and articles written by self-proclaimed paganists which hailed the wonders of the dark side of this holiday. They still celebrate it as the most important holiday of the year, with divination and witchcraft included. One site I found was actually written by an Archdruid priest. As Christians I believe that witchcraft and curses can have no effect on us, because we are protected by Jesus (Genesis 12:3) - but I think we can still sense the presence of evil. Something was not right with some of the sites I visited. I'll leave it at that.

Those of you who have read some of my previous informative posts know that I usually include the resources where I found my information. I'm not going to do that today. I actually don't want my blog linking to some of those sites - I don't want that kind of search engine optimization, thank you. I will, however, include an article on John MacArthur's website about Christians and Halloween that I thought was informative and helpful.

I give you this information not to scare you or creep you out, but just to get you to thinking about why you may celebrate Halloween, and what you are, in fact, celebrating. I want you to know that I actually had a really hard time writing this post, because I don't want any of you to think I'm judging anyone about this - I just want to inform you of what I know of this holiday and get you thinking about it. I feel like the Lord put this on my heart this year.

I liked this paragraph from the Christians and Halloween article from John MacArthur's website:

"Ultimately, Christian participation in Halloween is a matter of conscience before God. Whatever level of Halloween participation you choose, you must honor God by keeping yourself separate from the world and by showing mercy to those who are perishing. Halloween provides the Christian with the opportunity to accomplish both of those things in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's a message that is holy, set apart from the world; it's a message that is the very mercy of a forgiving God. What better time of the year is there to share such a message than Halloween?"

Every Christian has to pray and think about to what extent they are willing to participate in this holiday. Personally, Derek and I have decided not to celebrate any of it's aspects, except to maybe hand out tracts with the candy to any kids that show up at our door. We mostly based that decision on one question that I'll leave you with now.

If Jesus lived on earth today, would He celebrate Halloween?

8/2011 - One thing I neglected to address in the original body of this post was "Harvest Parties" or other Christian-based alternatives to Halloween. Personally, I don't have a problem with theses when they are focused on honoring the Lord and telling others about Jesus, and most of them are!
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Lidiya Lastur said...

Jesus wouldn't celebrate Halloween for SURE!!! That's why we don't celebrate it either. This holiday is not celebrated where i was born either....
Last night we were going to my sister's house when we passed this house full of scary stuff, like skeletons, witches,diff nasty decorations, and this big big baloon that looked like the devil. For a moment we were so scared-seriously-kids seeing this stuff? i get scared, what about kids? I agree: it's a dark holiday. I like the idea of kids asking for candy, but now their costumes are becoming darker, plus adults do this dressed as sexy nurses etc which makes us disregard this holiday even more.Good post!!!!

Chandra said...

Who says that when Halloween comes around those who choose to Trick or Treat, pass out candy, wear a costume, etc. are CELEBRATING anything? If anything, we are just having a good time and some fun. Pagan origins or not, I would say 99% of people who participate in modern Halloween traditions are just enjoying a "holiday" from the grind of everyday life, rather than celebrating anything evil.

katie said...

I don't and have never liked Halloween.

Good post. I'm not sure how I will handle this day if I ever have kids, but I don't have to get there just yet.

Brittney Galloway said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brittney Galloway said...

My last comment sounded too harsh, and I didn't want to upset you so here is a revised one, :)

I was raised in a family where we did not celebrate halloween for all of your mentioned reasons.

It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized that probably 99 percent of those that "celebrate," halloween know nothing of the origin, nor, frankly, care. It's because they aren't "celebrating," those pagan beliefs at all. They are simply dressing up and having a good time.

I've never dressed up or trick or treated, but when I have kids, if they want to pretend to be a princess or a fireman and get candy for it, by all means, go for it. There is absolutely no harm in doing that, and I don't believe that Jesus would say playing pretend is wrong for little kids. Be careful about how strong a stance you take on things like this, especially when claiming moral righteousness on an issue.

If you had bridesmaids in your wedding, then you too have willingly used a "dark spirits," tradition. Bridesmaids, only 2-3 hundred years ago, where used to distract the evil spirits from getting to the bride. However, like alot of things, including halloween, in western culture we just like the tradition of things, and through out the meanings.

Jessica said...

Thanks for sharing this. My parents always let us dress up and everything, but they definitely tried to make it a fun, innocent time, and didn't focus too much on where it originated (although I know my mom hated and still hates the holiday!) I try to keep it fun and light for my students and I will do the same for my future kids. I do have a bad habit of really getting into scary movies, though, and I would like to change that. I don't think God is honored by me watching those.

Our church has a Halloween alternative. It's called "Hallelujah Night." We have a big chili dinner, there are games and bouncy houses for the kids, and then they can walk through the Trunk-r-Treat section where people disguise the trunks of their cars to look like scenes from Bible stories while they pass out candy. We ask that no costumes be allowed, just because we don't want anyone to come in a scary costume. It's a really great thing, and I'm so glad we started it!

Amber said...

I agree that the origin of the holiday is an evil one. And I think some of that is carried over in some of the evil and demonic costumes and practices by some people. When I lived in California, my neighbor practiced witchcraft. Her place was a creepy one to be around on Halloween.

I think it's ok though for kids to dress up and get candy. It just needs to be in the right context. They don't know any better. It's completely innocent for them. We have a "Harvest Festival" at our church. There are no scary costumes allowed. If anyone comes in one, they're asked to take off their costume or leave. We encourage the kids (and participating adults) to dress up as bible characters or other bible-related things (like one pastor who wore an actual Bible costume and one dressed as a lamb). Each ministry at our church does a booth (which becomes part of a contest) and passes out candy. The booths all have a bible theme or message. I think things like that are ok. I think what was meant for evil can be a great opportunity to share Jesus and give kids a safe place to be and hang out.

Lauren said...

I have to agree that this all a matter of context. While there are certainly scary & very dark aspects of Halloween, I also think that many people aren't celebrating anything but the opportunity to buy every kind of candy imaginable from Walmart. Hubby & I dont' do anything on Halloween except open our doors to the kids around our neighborhood & hand out candy. Our church also has a trunk-or-treat ministry and reached out to over 500 kids last year.

Thanks for the informative post & thanks for stopping by my blog--I already enjoy reading yours because it makes me think about so many of the things I claim to believe.

Callie said...

Thanks everyone for your comments on this. I agree that I don't think that people out there are purposefully celebrating paganism when they celebrate Halloween, and I'm not claiming to be more righteous than anyone else on this issue - my main point is just to inform everyone of the origins of the holiday and it's completely a matter of conscience between each Christian and God as to what extent they celebrate Halloween - my personal convictions are to not take part in it, not only because of it's origins in paganism, but also because of the way it is still celebrated so darkly by many today. I just don't feel right taking part in a holiday that is focused so much on death, devils, ghosts, etc. But that's just my personal convictions, I know there are many different views on this, and honestly it's between each individual and God. I respect your opinions, and I'm definitely not trying to point a finger at anyone, but we'll just have to respectfully disagree on this. Thanks for the feedback though - just wanted to give you my opinion on the subject!

AmyK said...

Fab post, girl! Mind if I link it?

I don't celebrate halloween, and whether people are "celebrating" or not doesn't change the fact that they're participating. Christ wouldn't, so I'm not inclined to feel comfortable participating either. Christ calls us to be more like HIM, not like the pagans. Even if it's just "acting" pagan, it's not Christlike.

Anonymous said...

I never celebrated Halloween as a kid. I think part of it was that my parents didn't agree with it, and the other part was that we lived in the country, so we'd have to drive into town just to walk around in costumes over snowsuits and get candy from strangers? My mom just bought candy for us (the only good thing about Halloween is all the candy on sale!!) When I was maybe 11 we got an Adventure in Odyssey tape about the origin of Halloween, which was exactly what you wrote. I would say I'm inclined to agree with you - why even bother to associate ourselves with such a dark day? I'm planning on going to church lol!

Jenene said...

I don't agree with Brittney in that you have to "be careful about how strong a stance you take." You are entitled to your opinion, and you certainly don't need to defend your convictions.

I agree that this particular "holiday" is darker than any other one that is celebrated in America today. I never celebrated it growing up, because my mom felt so strongly against it.

I also agree that what Halloween intends for evil, can be turned around and made good. My church also made a point of having a fun, Bible-focused night.

My husband and I haven't really discussed this a whole lot, so I don't know how we'll raise our kids. But I do know that this year, we will be handing out candy. No costumes, no decorations.

And I have no doubt that we'll use it as an excuse to eat most of the candy ourselves. :)

Chandra said...

To those who oppose Halloween because "Christ would not like it", please try and remember that not all people are followers of Christianity, and it may be percieved that when making such a statment, it is implied that you feel that those who do not are wrong.

Jenene said...

Callie: you will always have my support. Even if I don't feel the same way you do on this issue, I admire you for blogging about it. You are really good at expressing your views concisely and intelligently.

There are so many times when I want to write about stuff on my blog, but I'm afraid of the backlash, so I choose not to bring it up. You are much more brave.

Also? I think pretty much anything can be a hot topic, depending on who you're talking to. :)

Unknown said...

I completely respect why you don't "celebrate" Halloween. To be honest there isn't much too celebrate or enjoy hence why the English don't partake in it hardly at all.

This Halloween I am having friends over and we are having nice food just disguised in gruesome ways.

Mrs. Lukie said...

THANK YOU! for this post. So many people cannot wrap their minds around the reasons why, as a child, Halloween was not "celebrated" in our house, and why, as an adult, my husband and I choose not to "celebrate" Halloween (nor will *our* children, when they are in the picture).

While it is difficult to put your beliefs out there for all the world to criticize, I commend you & your bravery, honesty, integrity & faith for doing so.


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