How did Halloween begin?
Halloween began with the Druids who were ancient religious leaders, priests and teachers who were from Britain but also lived in Ireland. In 1848, millions of Irish immigrants migrated to the United States because of a potato famine. With them, they brought in their traditions, and their Druids.
The Druids were involved in nature worship and they were pantheists. They thought God was in everything including the trees, and all of nature. They believed that the celebration of the seasons was the most important thing. So at the change of the seasons, there would be a festival. They believed that something spiritual happened on October 31st. Not only was it the beginning of winter, but they believed that October 31st was the day the veil between the living and the dead was at its thinnest, and that on this night, ghosts could be active. This is why you see costumes with veils.
The Christian church reacted to this. They would replace a pagan holiday with a Christian holiday. So in AD 35, November 1st became All Saints Day. The night before all saints day was called All Hallows Evening. Just like we have Christmas Eve, they had All Hallows Eve. As most of you know, hallow means holy. That’s why in the Lord’s Prayer, we say, “Hallowed be thy name.” So Halloween is a shortened version of All Hallows Eve, and it was meant to be a challenge to the Druid pagan holiday.
When the church did this, pagan and Christian elements blended together. Halloween was the original Christian alternative that got tweaked by the pagans. Here’s how: The Druids believed that on October 31st the spirits would go around and harass people. So you had to treat them in such a way so that they wouldn’t trick you. Sound familiar? Trick or Treat! The pagans wanted to blend in and look like the other spirits. So out of fear, and so that they would be unrecognizable to the spirits as humans, and not be haunted, they dressed up in costumes.
Roman practices also were incorporated. The goddess of Pomona was used. Sacred fruit and apples were part of her garb. The pagans would predict their future by the way the apples were cut and the way they fell. This is where bobbing for apples came from.
Jack O Lanterns came from an Irish drunk named Stingy Jack. He would put a light inside potatoes and turnips to represent the element of fire and spirits. Then he’d leave it on the front porch to beckon the spirits. Somehow, the people thought that by going door to door, they could benefit dead ones who were in purgatory. There is no mention of purgatory in the Bible whatsoever. This is not a Biblical concept.
Halloween became embraced as a holiday in America in 1928. It is the most popular marketing event next to Christmas in our culture. Americans will spend 8.4 billion on Halloween this year. That’s $83.00 per family. Of the 8.4 billion, we will spend 3.1 million on costumes, 2.5 million on candy, and 390 million on greeting cards. Half of us will decorate for Halloween, and it is the third most popular party occasion next to Christmas and Super Bowl. Christian Holidays are no longer recognized in schools, but the now pagan holiday of Halloween is allowed.
What is the church to do with a holiday that has these kinds of origins?
Is Trick or Treat okay?
When my boys were small, I heard from many other Christians that “Christians shouldn’t celebrate Halloween.” I saw no harm in dressing up my boys and taking them out to get candy with their friends. So I did. As Christian parents we have to find a place where our conscience is going to be ok with this. Personally, I don’t think if a child dresses up like a superhero and asks for candy, that there’s anything inherently wrong with that. The real danger on Halloween is the drunk drivers, pranksters and vandals. The incidence of actual satanic crime is low.
Don’t Respond Like The Pagans Do.
Pagans believe in multiple gods or goddesses, and they think there’s something special about this night. In Deut. 18:9, the children of Israel were warned not to embrace pagan cultures. We should not respond to Halloween like superstitious pagans. Respond with cautionary wisdom. Be wise. Don’t do anything that will violate your conscience or Christian values.
Romans 14 makes the argument that when it comes to matters of opinion, grace needs to move forward. Don’t judge others who allow their children to Trick or Treat if you don’t. If a kid dresses up like Superman or Tinkerbell, and goes out for candy, he or she is not a pagan. Keep in mind that grace teaches that we have freedom, but we should never use our freedom as an excuse for sin or as a stumbling block for others.
Use Halloween As An Opportunity to Share The Gospel
Many churches have Harvest Festivals where kids in costume are welcome and candy is handed out. It’s a safe place for kids. But even if you don’t take your kids to something like this, give out tracks with candy. Use the time to talk to neighbors you never see. Start to build those relationships for future evangelism opportunities.
Remember Our Freedom in Christ
Ephesians 5:8 says, “For you were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.”
This is who we are in Christ. Let your light shine and have a happy and safe Halloween!!
Stats and other interesting facts courtesy of Pastor Michael Lance, Living Truth Christian Fellowship, Corona Ca.