Halloween

This time of year, is unlike any other in many respects. Every shopping center and grocery store is filled with all sorts of candy, costumes and colorful decorations. In a few days, children will parade up and down the streets disguised as their favorite characters chanting “Trick or Treat” and holding out plastic bags or molded plastic pumpkins in hopes of collecting vast amounts of candy.
For Christians, Halloween is perhaps the most difficult holiday with which to deal. Its darker side is concerning, yet it holds a bit of appeal for us as we remember our own childhood experiences with the day.
American celebration of Halloween draws heavily from Scottish and Irish folk customs that can be directly traced to pre-Christian times and is indeed rooted in the ancient Celtic feast of samhain (sah-ween). Although modern Halloweens can be viewed as nights of fun and games, its pagan beginnings were not so innocent.
Originally, Halloween was a celebration of the pagan druids in honor of samhain, whom they believed to be the lord of the dead, and whose festival fell on November 1st.The druids believed that on the eve of this festival, samhain called together the wicked souls that within the past 12 months had been condemned to inhabit the bodies of animals. The veil, they believed, between the present world and the spirit world, or the world beyond, was pierced, releasing demons, witches and hobgoblins in mass to harass the living.
Interestingly, they thought that the cat was sacred because they thought that cats, especially black cats, had once been human beings whose spirits were transferred into the cat as a punishment for their evil deeds. Which makes you wonder why they were sacred.
There was a prevailing belief among many nations that at death the souls of good people were taken by good spirits and carried to paradise, but the souls of wicked men were left to wander in the space between the earth and the moon, or assigned to inhabit animals. Typically, the druids believed that on this one night of the year, the eve of the samhain festival, the spirits of the dead returned to their original homes along with other ghosts and goblins.
In order to protect themselves or make themselves immune to the attacking demons, people disguised themselves as witches, devils, and ghouls. From there comes the custom of wearing costumes for Halloween. They also attempted to ward off evil spirits by carving scary and grotesque faces on various gourds illuminated with candles (including pumpkins). So, to appease the evil spirits, they offered a variety of treats including fruits, vegetables, and other types of food. If the demonic hordes were satisfied, it was believed they would leave you in peace. But if they were not satisfied, the ghosts would trick you by casting a spell on you and bringing havoc in your home. So, the tradition of “trick or treat” was born.
Despite its dark origins, we can learn a lot from how the early Christians responded to this samhain festival. As Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire and Europe, many pagans and even druids converted to Christianity. But, they were still very superstitious. They didn’t have Bibles back then and most of them were illiterate. So, without education, many of these new believers brought their old superstitions with them into the church including their belief in ghosts and goblins.
In order to establish a rival celebration and to better educate new believers, the church designated November 1st as All Saints Day. Rather than fearing the onslaught of evil spirits who had been condemned during the course of the year, All Saints Day celebrated and honored all the saints, or martyrs, who had died that year. The mass held the evening prior to All Saints Day was called All Hallowmas. October 31st itself became known as All Hallow E’en (Halloween). Literally, the word Halloween means Holy Evening. All Hallows Eve was an attempt on the part of Christianity to overwhelm the tradition of ghouls with the truth of the gospel.
So, is there a Biblical perspective to Halloween? You can’t look up the word Halloween in a concordance and find a Scripture reference to it. However, I found one passage of Scripture that is relevant.
Romans 14: 1-8 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
The Apostle Paul addresses two specific issues here that are relevant to Halloween. Meat that had been sacrificed to pagan gods and holidays.
First, there were many new Christians who brought their old superstitious beliefs with them when they became Christians. Some, who had converted from paganism, even though they had accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, still believed in the gods of Roman and Greek mythology. Therefore, they refused to eat any meat that had been sacrificed to those gods because they saw it as a form of worshipping those old gods. Other Christians realized that gods such as Zeus or Hermes or Athena didn’t even exist. They’re just myths and fairy tales. Therefore, they had no problem eating meat that had been sacrificed to those gods because they aren’t even real.
Some Christians wanted to celebrate special days or holidays, such as the Passover or Hanukah or other Jewish celebrations, while other Christians believed that every day was the same and there is no need to celebrate a holiday (or holy day) unless God specifically commanded us to do so.
To all of these Christians, Paul says, “warmly welcome each other into the church, just as Christ has warmly welcomed you; then God will be glorified” (Romans 15:7).
Halloween is a holiday (holy day) that was once dedicated to a pagan god. Some people understand there is no such thing as ghouls or goblins and have no problem participating in the modern celebration. Others believe that Halloween’s dubious origins make it something in which Christians should not be involved. I believe Paul would tell us exactly what he told the Romans. If it bothers your conscience, then don’t participate. If, on the other hand, you can celebrate Halloween in a way that honors and glorifies God. like the early Christians did, then do it. Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.
Both Christmas and Easter have their origins in pagan festivals as well. Christians entertain their children with tales about Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny. Halloween is no different.
Christians use holidays such as Easter and Christmas as opportunities for outreach and some do the same thing for Halloween.
Matthew. 5:16 In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they will see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven”.
This Halloween, pray for the safety of the children who will be out on that night.

Prayer to Christ Against Evil
St. Gregory of Khandzta (759-861)
Christ Our Lord
You suffered and were tempted.
You are powerful to come to the aid
of those who are assailed by the devil,
For you are the support of Christian people.
O Lord, protect with Your Right Hand
those who trust in Your Name.
Deliver them from the Evil One,
and grant them everlasting joy. Amen

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