Halloween. Bugbear of knee-jerk non-involvists and new ‘favorite holiday of the religiously atheistic media and cultural leaders’. Where did it come from anyway? And can and should a Christian participate in it and to what extent?
I make no claims to historical accuracy in this article, merely stating what I’ve heard over the years and researched myself, all thrown into a big puddle and stirred until I get this… mess.
It is common to hear that Halloween is a night dedicated to the worship of Satan, the prince of evil and darkness. The favored decorations are dark on the nice side, and hideous on the bad side. Tales of ancestor worship and demon calling are frequent and true. Yes, it does happen.
The current version of Halloween borrows, as do most holidays we celebrate, from a plethora of traditions and belief systems. First we shall visit the Christian roots. The early Christians celebrated days when brave Christians laid down their lives as holidays. As persecution grew and the number of martyrs rose, it became impractical to even celebrate only your regional martyrs, and one day, the 1st of November, was dedicated to the celebration of the lives of those who gave their lives for Christ’s glory. Eventually, the rumor grew that on All Hallows Eve (Hallowe’en) God allowed the saints one day to walk the earth, visiting and comforting people and their loved ones and doing good deeds. This of course fueled the imaginations of people, feeding ghost stories and our natural fear of the unknown, the dark, and the dead.
The primary pagan roots of Halloween are Celtic. Druidism is an earth-worshiping, animistic, pan-theistic, evil religion which practiced, at various times, human sacrifice and erected marvelous structures facilitating it’s domination of the superstitious Celts. An brief but accurate description of the Druid’s hold on early Britain can be read in the early chapters of Charles Dickens’ A Child’s History of England (an excellent book for family and table reading). Around the time of Halloween has always been a time of harvest festivals, as the last of the summer and fall crops have been stored, the fields and woods were full of fat, lazy animals to hunt and kill. The storehouses of the industrious young civilizations were stuffed and the people were ready for one last wild fling before being confined to their hovels and huts by inclement weather. The Druids had convinced the populace that they were responsible for the success of each year, and that the god’s must be payed with ritualistic sacrifice in order to procure their blessing for the long winter and hope for the coming spring. The spiritism and human sacrifice and overall dark tone of the Druid religion permeated this time of the year for the pagan Celts. With the arrival of Saint Patrick in Ireland and other missionaries and conquering cultures such as the Romans, Druidism gave way to a hybrid Christianity, much as it did in South America, where a pagan reverence for the Dead mixed with a Christian knowledge of eternal life and an entirely human desire to see one’s loved ones again.
Halloween retains it’s Christian name: “All Hallows Eve”, and for most of us it retains a good theme, going into the neighborhood one last time to knock on all the doors and receive gifts and give greetings before the cold of winter chases us all indoors again. For a few it retains the pagan trappings of animal sacrifice, for others it involves getting drunk and/or high and naked, making pentagrams, lighting a fire, and chanting loudly at midnight and waking the neighbors.
For the vast majority it means walking your kids around the neighborhood worrying about razor blades in candy and never finding any (kids will digest ANYTHING) and waving hi to the neighbors who fuel your children’s sugar rush for the next 2 weeks.
For some Halloween is a time of remembering Luther’s 95 Theses, which he nailed to the door of the Wittenburg Cathedral on this day 490 years ago. His 95 arguments against the teachings of the Roman Catholic church set fire to the revivals of spirit and social and cultural upheaval and growth which started immediately thereafter and have continued to some extent even to this day.
Some even still remember the martyrs for the faith, whose numbers are growing at an ever greater rate as many nations seek to expunge the redemptive work of Christ from their borders.
But it is important to note that evil has not, cannot, and will not ever create anything new for itself. Evil is only capable of perverting things that are good, taking them out of balance and propriety, assigning more of less significance to them. That is all evil can and will ever be able to do.
God is capable of redeeming all things because He first created all things. Just as man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man, days and times and seasons have no inherent control over us, and can only affect us to the extent we allow ourselves to be controlled by them. The only thing we as Christians should allow to control us is Christ, and through His power we share in His overcoming the world. Greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world. We are not given a spirit of fear, but of power, of strength, and of a sound mind. Our God has overcome the world, and nothing occurs without His knowing it and His plan and purpose directing it.
Halloween, for me, is a time to enjoy the change of season, to remember the faithful who have given their lives for Christ, to visit the neighbors while enjoying costumes and goodies. These are pics of my costumes for Halloween 2005 and 2006. I went to work in these. The English Lord included poofy pants and leggings and THE most uncomfortable shoes ever, and I went trick-or-treating with several of my friends that night. It was fun. The other one is, obviously, Mr. Clean, and yes, I shaved my head. It was the first time ever, and it felt weird.
The important thing to remember is that we are called to be light in a dark world. The culture’s current view of Halloween reinforces very strongly the fact that we are indeed in a very dark world that desperately needs light. We are also called to do whatever we do for Him and His glory. If that is not our goal, whether we participate or not, we’re doing it wrong.
EDIT: Scott over at Verum Serum has his own response to kids he teaches and knee-jerk non-involvists.