Fall has arrived, as I write this, and the once-bright green leaves on trees are beginning to change into a variety of brilliant colors. Before long, the city streets and rural highways will be lined with many shades of splendid yellows, oranges, reds, and browns. For me, Fall always seems to come and go at a fast pace: green leaves, then no leaves, then come the holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving and finally the approach of Christmas, as Fall shifts into Winter.
Of course, if you live in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are reversed and while many countries don’t celebrate all these holidays, here in the United States we do. Anyway, the reason I’m writing this essay is because I recently received a question, one that usually pops up around this time every year: “Should a Christian celebrate Halloween?” So that is what this discourse will investigate.
How did Halloween originate?
This website gets visitors from nearly 150 countries, so for those people who live in areas that do not celebrate this holiday, here is a brief overview. Halloween dates back about two thousand years,1 and according to Wikipedia, its roots are in the ancient Gaelic harvest festival, called Damhain,2 which had Celtic pagan origins, and is observed throughout Scotland, Ireland, and Isle of Man, as well as other Celtic areas.3
Eventually, like many pagan celebrations, it was incorporated into Christianity as something else.4 This “something else” is now supposed to be a day to honor the Saints. Halloween literally means the evening before “All Hollows Day” (or All Saints Day) when traditionally, demons, witches, and evil spirits freely roamed the earth to greet the arrival of the early darkness and long nights of winter.5 It, therefore, always falls on October 31.
In America, Halloween didn’t start off as a fun event, but as one of tricks and pranks. The Saturday Evening Post, in a recent issue, stated that as the country became modernized and changed from rural to urban, “mischief turned to mayhem and eventually incited a movement to quell what the mid-20th-century press called the ‘Halloween problem’ – and make the holiday a safer diversion for youngsters.” This movement compelled family magazines, newspapers, radio shows, and movie cartoons to turn anarchy into a much milder form of family fun. Instead of pranks and anarchy, just going door-to-door and politely asking for a tasty treat was the idea.6 It worked and also demonstrated the power of the press and motion pictures to manipulate the population. Eventually, the food companies took notice and got into the act by supplying Halloween candy and snacks.
In the United States and Canada, this holiday is the second largest in the amount of money spent. Billions are spent on candy, costumes, food, and decorations. It is also celebrated, to some extent, in many European and Asian countries, as well as in Australia and New Zealand.7 Halloween activities include donning costumes, ‘trick or treating’ around the neighborhood, attending parties, outdoor decorating, carving pumpkins into ‘jack-o-lanterns,’ visiting haunted attractions, telling scary ghost stories, and playing divination games – basically a whole lot of fun, right? Many other countries observe holidays celebrating departed loved ones, but they only share common themes.8
Churches celebrate Halloween against God’s advisement.
If I painted somewhat of a fun picture about modern day Halloween activities, that was my intent, because it also shows what Satan can do to alienate us from God by turning something very wrong into an appearance of something very good (like in the Garden of Eden). He did it with me for many years in my youth.
The reasons for not celebrating this holiday are plainly written in the Bible, but that doesn’t seem to matter, even to Christian churches. In my childhood years, and also today, many churches advertised Halloween events such as children’s costume parties and elaborate haunted houses filled with scary ghosts, goblins, spirits, witchcraft, and other evil things. It is a lot of fun for parents, as well as children and, I suppose, brings in a good deal money for the church. Fun? Maybe, but is it worth it? If church organizations disregard God’s teachings on one issue, to what else might they be giving their blessing? (Hint: gay marriage, abortion, and much more.)
There has been a movement in some churches – probably from feeling some guilt about what the Bible really says – to offer a “Harvest Festival” filled with fun things, at the same time as the anti-Christian Halloween. But, think about it, isn’t that a similar approach to a problem, as happened when the early Church incorporated so many other Pagan practices into their services. In the United States, and several other countries, we already have a Fall event to give thanks to God for providing a harvest of food; it is called Thanksgiving Day. This national holiday is celebrated across the country, as well as in most churches already, so a church changing ‘Halloween’ into a ‘Harvest Festival’ is a lame excuse to incorporate a Pagan event into the church culture.
What does God say, exactly?
There is no mention of Halloween in the Bible, but there is much evidence concerning the detestable practices related to this holiday. In the Old Testament, it is plainly stated:
“When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you . . . who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD . . .” (Deuteronomy 18:9-12a, NIV)
Needless to say, God finds serious faults with any such practices. In fact, so abhorrent was the practice of using sorcery or the supernatural to contact or communicate with spirits or the dead, God warned there is a death penalty for doing so: “Men and women among you who act as mediums or who consult the spirits of the dead must be put to death by stoning. They are guilty of a capital offense.” (Leviticus 20:27, NLT)
In the New Testament, we are given instruction to do only right and honorable things. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9, NIV)
Our LORD does not approve of the things that Halloween represents. His word, the Bible, makes it very clear that those practices are repugnant and obscene. They are an abomination to all that he represents. So, to answer the original question, “Should a Christian celebrate Halloween?” — in my own opinion, no, a Christian should not celebrate this holiday.
Copyright © 2018, Dr. Ray Hermann
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References & Notes
- “Ancient Origins of Halloween,” (History Channel, retrieved 29 September 2018), https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween
- “Halloween,” (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 22 September 2018), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween
- “Samhain,” (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 12 April 2018), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samhain
- Note: Many Christian celebrations started as Pagan practices which were incorporated into the Christian church to draw converts. The following link will retrieve an article about some such adoptions.
Hermann, Ray, “Sun Worship, Sex in the Bible, and Church Steeples: A Brief History of Pagan Rituals and Traditions Carried into the Christian Church,” (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 19 March 2018), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/sun-worship-sex-in-the-bible-and-church-steeples-a-brief-history-of-pagan-rituals-and-traditions-carried-into-the-christian-church/
- “What is Halloween and should Christians celebrate it?” (BibleInfo.com, retrieved 24 September 2018), http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/questions/it-wrong-celebrate-halloween
- Bannatyne, Lesley, “When Halloween Mischief Turned to Mayhem,” (The Saturday Evening Post, Backstory, September/October 2018), pp. 80-82.
- “Geography of Halloween,” (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 21 June 2018), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geography_of_Halloween#Elsewhere
- “Do Other Countries Celebrate Halloween?” (Wonderopolis, retrieved 25 September 2018), https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/do-other-countries-celebrate-halloween