Apologetic Wednesday: Handling Halloween
I hear the question asked often, I can always expect to be asked every time October rolls around, “Should Christians celebrate Halloween? Some see Halloween as the Devil’s delight (yay for alliteration) while others see it as a harmless holiday that brings happiness (and sack loads of candy) to many children. So which is it, a satanic smorgasbord or a free candy free-for-all? Should Christians pass, or is it alright to celebrate?
Let me be clear about how I relate to Halloween. I have never enjoyed the Holliday for a number of reasons. I hate scary movies. My friends all call me jumpy Josh because I get hyper-vigilant if I watch anything remotely creepy (okay, that really isn’t my nickname, but it might as well be). I also hate the commercials for horror films. I quickly change the channel every time. I am also too lazy to drive all over town for free candy. I would rather save my time, drive to the store, get the exact candy I want and be done with it. Also, did I mention that I hate candy corn? There has never been much about Halloween that appeals to me. I prefer holidays where you get to eat real food until you are utterly miserable with a food hangover. All that to say, I am pretty neutral when it comes to the question of whether Christians should participate in Halloween festivities. I plan to explore the question from as much of an unbiased perspective as possible.
First, there is no denying that Halloween is rooted in Paganism. The name itself actually comes from All Saints Day, a Christian celebration that takes place on November 1st to celebrate those that have been martyred for their faith in Christ. All Hallows Eve is the day before All Saints Day which eventually became simply “Halloween”.
As Christianity spread, it came into contact with pagan customs and sought to provide a Christian alternative. So actually, Halloween was the original alternative to the holiday practiced by pagan Celtic Druids of Europe and Britain called “Samhain”. Much of the imagery from the pagan holiday stuck with the Christianized holiday “All Hallows Eve”.
The pagan holiday of Samhain was celebrated as the final harvest of the year was reaped. These Celtic Druids believed that during this time undead spirits roamed the earth. Many believed these spirits must be appeased and sent off to the netherworld with treats, lest they torment and play tricks on the humans who neglected to give them an offering. It was a holiday marked with sorcery, occultic rituals, and divination. Child sacrifice supposedly occurred to appease the spirits.
It was also believed by some that one might fool a spirit by wearing a costume, or that these spirits could be scared away by carving a frightening face into a turnip or gourd and illuminating it with a candle. Thus we see many of the same traditions today, dressing up and carving jack-o-lanterns. Like today, the ancient holiday of Samhain focused on the color black, death, skeletons, magic, etc.
Clearly, the ancient pagan holiday of Samhain is the antithesis of biblical Christianity. As Deuteronomy 18:10-11 proscribes, “No one among you is to make his son or daughter pass through the fire, practice divination, tell fortunes, interpret omens, practice sorcery, cast spells, consult a medium or a familiar spirit, or inquire of the dead.” The question is then; does the holiday that many celebrate on October 31st relay the same meanings as practiced by the pagans? To some yes, but these are in a minority. There are those that practice divination or dabble in occultism on Halloween along with many other days of the year.
To most, Halloween is simply a day to dress up as their favorite character, get free candy, maybe egg or roll a few friends houses, and that is it. Can we legitimately say there is anything wrong with that from a biblical perspective? I find it hard. Sure, the origins of Halloween are rooted in paganism but many do not celebrate it as such, and many are not even aware of its roots. To put a prohibition on celebrating Halloween commits the genetic fallacy. It would be like saying we should never eat fruit due to what happened in the Garden of Eden. I know many Christians that listen to positive Christian Rock and Roll, but we know Rock music was an outgrowth of the drug and sex infused, rebel, counter-culture of the 1960’s and 70’s. Because the origin of this music was rooted in sin does that mean we should no longer listen to the same kind of music with a different message? Of course not! The issue seems to be one’s motivation and reason for partaking in the holiday.
I feel we can also look to the Apostle Paul for some understanding on this topic. In 1st Corinthians he addresses the topic of food sacrificed to idols. Many would abstain from eating food that was offered to idols. This makes sense because one would be partaking of something that was meant for a false God. Yet, Paul touches on this in I Corinthians 8 and 10 and states there is nothing wrong with eating food offered to idols because we know there is only one true God. The food offered to idols is really an offering to no one. We as Christians can partake of certain harmless activities, such as wearing a costume and getting free candy, because our intentions are not to bend a knee to anyone other than Christ and because we have no intention of opening up the door to the world of the occult.
Paul does continue on to say that if our actions might be a stumbling block for someone else then we should not partake. If you feel that your celebrating Halloween might damage your testimony or somehow impugn your ability to let others see your faith then you should abstain. If you feel guilty or convicted that celebrating Halloween is wrong then you should not participate.
So, should Christians celebrate Halloween? Well, for a definitive answer see 1st Corinthians 17:4, “Thou shall not celebrate Halloween.” Alright, that verse isn’t in there. This is an area that we have found some guidelines on, but it is somewhat gray. There is nothing that says you shouldn’t celebrate the Holiday, but if you feel bothered by doing so, or that you might offend others then it is a no. This is where Christian freedom comes into play. Again, as Paul reminds us, “Everything is permissible, but not everything is helpful.” This is an area in which the Christian must make his own decision, taking into account the Bible, specifically the scripture we have examined here, and what he feels that God impresses upon his heart.
Obviously, it should go without saying that the Christian should “Stay away from every kind of evil” (1st Thessalonians 5:22). There are certain activities that are plainly wrong. For instance, movies with occult themes should be avoided (which is most of the movies that come out around Halloween).
So many Christians split hairs over the topic of Halloween. Often, I feel we really miss the crux of what spiritual warfare looks like. Satan reels few people in with the macabre. The scary and grotesque masks have limited return. He succeeds minimally with the wayward activities that go on Halloween night. We know that, “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2nd Corinthians 11:14). He finds much more traction in inflating our pride, waving material possessions in front of us, desacralizing sex, and making us busy. His covert tactics are much more destructive than anything seemingly overt.
As believers, we can “redeem the time” and pronounce the power of Christ over anything offered by the world, even Halloween.
If Big Bird comes to my door, he’s definitely going to get a treat. –Waltar Martin, Christian authority on cults and the occult.
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
What are your thoughts about Halloween?