Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?

Before I can answer the question of whether or not Christians should celebrate Halloween, I must tell you about the holiday and its meaning. Halloween originates from the ancient Celtic celebration known as Samhain (pronounced sow-in). This celebration marked the end of the summer and the beginning of the winter. It was celebrated on the winter solstice, which was usually on or around October 31st.

The Celts believed that on this night, the barrier between the spirit world and the physical world became extremely thin. So thin, in fact, that spirits could “cross over” into the physical realm. Because the spirits were believed to be wondering the physical realm, it was also believed that this time brought with it an increase of magic. The Druid priests would practice divination and make predictions about the next year. These predictions would then be spread around the village that night. This has been suggested to be a possible origin for the modern tradition of telling ghost stories on Halloween.

Huge bonfires were lit around the villages in order to scare off those spirits that might be evil or have malevolent intentions. It is believed this tradition brought about the association of bats with the holiday because mosquitoes and other flying insects would have been attracted to the light of the fires and these insects would have attracted bats. In addition to lighting the bonfires, the villagers left food and sweets on their steps for the spirits that would be wondering the night.

As the Roman Empire grew, it would eventually come to encompass the Celtic regions. The Romans were notorious syncretists—meaning they would combine the religion of other nations with their own religious beliefs. At almost the same time of year, the Romans held their own celebration to the goddess Pomona—the goddess of gardens and fruit. The apple was often used as a symbol of Pomona. As the Romans began combining their harvest festival to Pomona with Samhain, the tradition of candied apples and bobbing for apples began to take shape.

The changing and molding of Samhain didn’t stop there. Pope Gregory III is believed to be the originator of the celebration known as All Saints Day, which is celebrated on November 1. Pope Gregory had an interesting philosophy when it came to dealing with pagans and attempting to convert them. He is often credited as saying, “If you come across pagans worshiping a tree, do not cut the tree down and tell them their error. Rather, consecrate the tree to Christ and urge them to continue meeting there.” All Saints Day was also known as All Hallows Day and, therefore, October 31 became All Hallows Eve. It was only a short trip from All Hallows Eve to Halloween.

Halloween in America, however, has had plenty of ups and downs. It basically went extinct during the Great War. However, it came back with a fury in the 50’s and 60’s. This also marked the commercialization of the holiday in America. Costumes, candy, and decorations are all items most Americans deem essential to properly celebrating Halloween. The selling of these items makes Halloween only second to Christmas in terms of revenue and retail sales.

So has Halloween become and innocent night of fun? To many Americans that is certainly the case. Most people don’t know the origins of Halloween and to these people it is simply a night to let loose and have fun. However, some of the traditions ingrained into the very essence of Halloween go against the very core of the Bible.

In the Old Testament, Leviticus 19: 26 and 19:31 expressly forbid participation in acts of divination, witchcraft, or magic: Deuteronomy 18:9-14 likewise condemns these things:

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 sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, 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, and because of these detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God. The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so.
The New Testament also condemns these actions in Galatians 5:19-21.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Revelation 21:8 and 22:15 are among other passages that condemn participation in witchcraft, sorcery, divination, etc.

Here lies the crux of the matter. To participate in the full celebration of Halloween is for a Christian to align his/her self with that which is opposed to Scripture. Going back to Pope Gregory’s quote might help clarify what I mean. It is usually most unhelpful to chop the tree down because those who worshiped it will view you as hostile and refuse to listen to anything you try to tell them. However, simply consecration the tree to Christ means nothing to them. If a Christian truly wants to change them, he/she must get them to abandon the tree of their own accord and accept Christ.

I think this is the spirit of many Halloween Alternatives that churches now offer. However, I think many churches fail to demonstrate and offer Christ to those who attend these events. The population simply sees it as an endorsement by churches of the holiday. In other words, people often see this as the church in essence saying, “If you can’t beat ‘em, might as well join ‘em.”

At the same time, I think it is a huge opportunity to demonstrate the love and care of the local church to the community and to offer a safe way for families to celebrate the holiday together. Our church does offer a Halloween Alternative and has for years. While many other churches in our area also offer alternatives, our church’s is quite different. It does not attempt to simply Christianize the holiday. We simply make an atmosphere that people will enjoy, while extending an invitation to attend our church and purposely sharing the gospel in several ways (actively and passively). I am not declaring that this is the only way to handle Halloween as a Christian, but I believe it is one of the best ways to honor and glorify God on a night that represents so much of what is opposed to God. I think this principle is also demonstrated in the Bible.

When the Apostle Paul entered Athens, he spent time observing their culture. He observed how and who/what they worshiped. After he had taken time to understand their beliefs, he didn’t go to them and begin declaring that they worshiped gods that didn’t exist (i.e. chopping down the tree). However, he also didn’t go in and simply tell them that they had the wrong name (i.e. consecrating the tree to Christ). He used their own beliefs to begin sharing with them the gospel.

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you—Acts 17:22-23, NIV.
So should Christians celebrate Halloween? If that means that they participate in the “spirit” of the holiday, absolutely not. However, to condemn those who celebrate it because they do not know Jesus Christ or what the Bible has to say about it is wrong. Christians are supposed to be representative of Chris and beacons of light. Halloween is a celebration marked by darkness and we should be reaching out with the true light—Jesus Christ. So find a way to be a messenger of light without participating in the darkness.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light…Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible…Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil—Ephesians 5:8-16.

What are some ways that you or your church reaches out with the gospel on Halloween?
What'd you think? 

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