When we became followers of Jesus Christ there were many practices we put behind us; lying, immorality, drunkenness, brawling, etc. We accepted the clear teaching of Holy Scripture that a believer should not make such habits a practice in his life. Many, however, feel that the bible is not so clear in condemning the believer’s participation in the celebration of Halloween. They would say that it is a "gray area" where each man must be convinced in his own mind. Is this true? Let us examine, from a biblical and historical perspective, what the bible has to say about the revelry of October 31st.
Reference materials are in general agreement about the origins of the practices of Halloween:
Now a children's holiday, Halloween was originally a Celtic festival for the dead, celebrated on the last day of the Celtic year, Oct. 31. Elements of that festival were incorporated into the Christian holiday of All Hallows' Eve, the night preceding All Saints' (Hallows') Day. (4)
Customs and superstitions gathered through the ages go into the celebration of Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, on October 31, the Christian festival of All Saints. It has its origins, however, in the autumn festivals of earlier times.
The ancient Druids had a three-day celebration at the beginning of November. They believed that on the last night of October spirits of the dead roamed abroad, and they lighted bonfires to drive them away. In ancient Rome the festival of Pomona, goddess of fruits and gardens, occurred at about this time of year. It was an occasion of rejoicing associated with the harvest; and nuts and apples, as symbols of the winter store of fruit, were roasted before huge bonfires. But these agricultural and pastoral celebrations also had a sinister aspect, with ghosts and witches thought to be on the prowl.
Even after November 1 became a Christian feast day honoring all saints, many people clung to the old pagan beliefs and customs that had grown up about Halloween. Some tried to foretell the future on that night by performing such rites as jumping over lighted candles. In the British Isles great bonfires blazed for the Celtic festival of Samhain. Laughing bands of guisers (young people disguised in grotesque masks) carved lanterns from turnips and carried them through the villages.
In ancient Britain and Ireland, October 31 was celebrated as the end of summer. In later centuries it was the opening of the new year and was the occasion for setting huge bonfires on hilltops to drive away evil spirits. The souls of the dead were supposed to revisit their homes on that day, and the annual fall festival acquired sinister connotations, with evil spirits, ghosts, witches, goblins, black cats, and demons wandering about. (3)
Halloween, name applied to the evening of October 31st, preceding the Christian feast of Hallowmas, Allhallows, or All Saints' Day. The observances connected with Halloween are thought to have originated among the ancient Druids, who believed that on that evening, Saman, the lord of the dead, called forth hosts of evil spirits. The Druids customarily lit great fires on Halloween, apparently for the purpose of warding off all these spirits. Among the ancient Celts, Halloween was the last evening of the year and was regarded as a propitious time for examining the portents of the future. The Celts also believed that the spirits of the dead revisited their earthly homes on that evening. After the Romans conquered Britain, they added to Halloween features of the Roman harvest festival held on November 1 in honor of Pomona, goddess of the fruits of trees.
The Celtic tradition of lighting fires on Halloween survived until modern times in Scotland and Wales, and the concept of ghosts and witches is still common to all Halloween observances. Traces of the Roman harvest festival survive in the custom, prevalent in both the United States and Great Britain, of playing games involving fruit, such as ducking for apples in a tub of water. Of similar origin is the use of hollowed-out pumpkins, carved to resemble grotesque faces and lit by candles placed inside. (1)
So, according to secular sources, the traditions of Halloween are based upon the worship of false gods, contact with the dead, foretelling the future, and communing with evil spirits. Does the bible have anything to say about these practices?
The worship of false gods is condemned numerous times in both the Old and New Testaments and is emphasized so strongly that it is the very first of the commandments given to Moses on Mt. Sinai.
In Exodus 20:2-3 the Lord writes with His own hand:
"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me."In Deuteronomy 11:16 He warns the Israelites:
Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them.The Psalmist warns in Psalm 81:9:
“Let there be no strange god among you; Nor shall you worship any foreign god.
John even closes the "Love Letter" of 1 John with the admonition to "...keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21).
The passage in the bible that most directly addresses the customs mentioned above is Deuteronomy 18:9-14, where we read:
9 “When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord; and because of these detestable things the Lord your God will drive them out before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. 14 For those nations, which you shall dispossess, listen to those who practice witchcraft and to diviners, but as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do so.
We see here about the most inclusive list of the activities upon which Halloween was established that can be found anywhere in the bible, and the practitioners thereof are labeled "detestable." Those habits are, in fact, the very reason the Pagan nations were driven out of the Promised Land.
In Amos 5:14 the Lord tells Israel,
Seek good and not evil, that you may live; And thus may the Lord God of hosts be with you, Just as you have said!Just as you have said! He goes on in the next verse to say, "Hate evil, love good." Note the emphasis (added) on the statement "Just as you have said!." Even though one may be making a profession of faith, Amos is clearly saying that the Lord Almighty is not with those who are actually seeking evil, instead of good. Peter reminds us of this when he says
“For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, And His ears attend to their prayer, But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1Peter 3:12).
At this point some may say, "But all of that was ages ago. None of that significance remains. It is now a harmless kids holiday, isn’t it?" Let’s see just what significance, if any, there is in the modern holiday of Halloween.
Rowan Moonstone (a pseudonym), a self-described witch, has written a pamphlet entitled "The Origins of Halloween," in which he seeks to defend Halloween from the "erroneous information" contained in "woefully inaccurate and poorly researched" Christian tracts on the subject. Following are excerpts from the question and answer style article.
1. Where does Halloween come from?
Our modern celebration of Halloween is a descendent of the ancient Celtic fire festival called "Samhain". The word is pronounced "sow-in," with "sow" rhyming with cow. (2)
2. What does "Samhain" mean?
The Irish English dictionary published by the Irish Texts Society defines the word as follows: "Samhain, All Hallowtide, the feast of the dead in Pagan and Christian times, signalizing the close of harvest and the initiation of the winter season, lasting till May, during which troops (esp. the Fiann) were quartered. Faeries were imagined as particularly active at this season. From it the half year is reckoned. also called Feile Moingfinne (Snow Goddess). The Scottish Gaelis Dictionary defines it as "Hallowtide. The Feast of All Soula. Sam + Fuin = end of summer." Contrary to the information published by many organizations, there is no archaeological or literary evidence to indicate that Samhain was a deity. The Celtic Gods of the dead were Gwynn ap Nudd for the British, and Arawn for the Welsh. The Irish did not have a "lord of death" as such. (2)
Okay, it is possible that the name of the god and the name of the celebration got mixed up in someone’s research. Note that he still admits it was a "feast of the dead." He then describes its significance:
4. What does it have to do with a festival of the dead?
The Celts believed that when people died, they went to a land of eternal youth and happiness called Tir nan Og. They did not have the concept of heaven and hell that the Christian church later brought into the land. The dead were sometimes believed to be dwelling with the Fairy Folk, who lived in the numerous mounds or sidhe (pron. "shee") that dotted the Irish and Scottish countryside. Samhain was the new year to the Celts. In the Celtic belief system, turning points, such as the time between one day and the next, the meeting of sea and shore, or the turning of one year into the next were seen as magickal times. The turning of the year was the most potent of these times. This was the time when the "veil between the worlds" was at its thinnest, and the living could communicate with their beloved dead in Tir nan Og. (2)
11. What other practices were associated with this season?
Folk tradition tells us of many divination practices associated with Samhain. Among the most common were divinations dealing with marriage, weather, and the coming fortunes for the year. These were performed via such methods as ducking for apples, and apple peeling. Ducking for apples was a marriage divination. The first person to bite an apple would be the first to marry in the coming year. Apple peeling was a divination to see how long your life would be. The longer the unbroken apple peel, the longer your life was destined to be. In Scotland, people would place stones in the ashes of the hearth before retiring for the night. Anyone whose stone had been disturbed during the night was said to be destined to die during the coming year. (2)
So from the pen of a defender of the holiday we find that pretty much all that has been said about the holiday by the encyclopedia's cited earlier, with the possible exception of the faulty association of god status on the name Samhain, is true. Toward the end of the article Mr. Moonstone makes what seems to be, for our purposes, the most telling statement of all:
14. Does anyone today celebrate Samhain as a religious observance?
Yes. Many followers of various pagan religions, such as Druids and Wiccans, observe this day as a religious festival. They view it as a memorial day for their dead friends, similar to the national holiday of Memorial Day in May. It is still a night to practice various forms of divination concerning future events. Also, it is considered a time to wrap up old projects, take stock of ones life, and initiate new projects for the coming year. As the winter season is approaching, it is a good time to do studying on research projects and also a good time to begin hand work such as sewing, leather working, woodworking, etc. for Yule gifts later in the year. (2)
So, according to a witch, for Druids and Wiccans the day still holds religious significance. It is a festival during which "various forms of divination" are practiced. This position is supported in the following article. A witch is giving tips to other homeschooling (!) Witches at a website entitled "Halloween: October Festival of the Dead".
Origins: All Hallow's Eve, Halloween or Samhain once marked the end of grazing, when herds were collected and separated for slaughter. For farmers, it is the time at which anything not made use of in the garden loses its' life essence, and is allowed to rot. Halloween is the original new year, when the Wheel of the Year finishes: debts are paid, scores settled, funereal rites observed and the dead put to rest before the coming winter. On this night, the veil between our world and the spirit world is negligible, and the dead may return to walk amongst us. Halloween is the night to ensure that they have been honored, fed and satisfied--and is the best time of the year for gaining otherworldly insight through divination and psychic forecasting. Recognition of the unseen world and the ordinary person's access to it, as well as the acceptance of death as a natural and illusory part of life is central to the sacred nature of this holiday. (5)
Note her use of the present tense to describe the various aspects of Halloween. Of special interest is the term "sacred nature of this holiday." Further down the webpage, in an article entitled "Elemental Homeschooling," she gives the following suggestions for how to enlighten your children on (and about) Halloween:
As much fun as it is for children to get great bags of sweets at Halloween, the origins of this time of year are sacred and meaningful. It is the time when nature appears to die, so it becomes natural to consider those who have passed away to the spirit world. Bring out pictures of your ancestors and re-tell the old family stories to those who haven’t heard them yet. Remind yourself where you come from. Water is the element of Autumn, and the fluidity of emotion is most apparent in the Fall. We retreat within, burrow down into our homes in order to stay warm for the coming winter. We look within, and easily seek inner communication. Halloween is the perfect time to link the deepening of emotion with finding new ways to search for interior wisdom. Likewise, this is a fun and exciting holiday: theatrics, costuming, and acting out new personas express our ability to change. Here are some ideas for integrating this holy day with home schooling lessons.
Methods of inner communication with divination tools: tarot, palmistry, astrology, dream journaling ... ? archetypes: fairy tales, storytelling the Dark Ages, the medieval era, issues about superstition and eternal truths, skeletons: the skeletal system, organs, anatomy ...issues about death, persecution (using the Burning Times as a beginning point for older children), mysteries, the spirit world night: nocturnal animals, bodies of water: rivers, lakes, ocean, ponds ... (5)
Once again she uses the present tense and describes Halloween as a "Holy Day." She also advocates many of the activities specifically condemned by Deuteronomy 18:9-12. Obviously, there is a lot more to Halloween than some costumed kids gathering a stomach ache worth of candy. It is clearly a festival of the Kingdom of Darkness.
The scripture has a lot to say about participating in such activities:
14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 17 “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. (2 Corinthians 6:14-17)
1 Thessalonians 5:22 says to "abstain from every form of evil"
Jesus said it best in John 3:19-21:
19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
Finally, Paul gives us an idea for a costume to be worn on Halloween (or any) night in Romans 13:12:
The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
There will certainly be people who will still rationalize ways to participate, at some level, in the festivities of Halloween. To this the Lord replies in Proverbs 3:7
Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
and Proverbs 8:13
The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate.
Will we seek to push the boundaries of our faith to see just how far we can go? Or will we seek to serve the Lord with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength?
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20).
The Lord equates Spiritual maturity with the ability to discern good and evil. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that they should not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature (1 Corinthians 14:20). The author of Hebrews makes it even more clear when he says "But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil." (Hebrews 5:14).
For those who would still insist that they can participate in such activities with a clear conscience, there is another aspect to think about: the example you are to those around you.
31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:31-33).
It is curious to note that in the same breath that Paul says "Love must be sincere" he says "Hate what is evil; Cling to what is good" (Romans 12:9). If we have sincere love for our brethren we will do all that we can to set a good example and not be a stumbling block to them.
16 Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. 21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. 22 The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.
1 Corinthians 8:
7 However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 8 But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. 9 But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? 11 For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. 12 And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.
The weak or new brother who sees or hears of one of us participating in Halloween may be led or feel pressured to participate himself, even though he does not have a clean conscience about the activity. For him then the activity is clearly sin, because it does not come from faith. This brother would have been pushed toward this sinful state by your indulgence.
Consider another aspect of this; who among us is weaker than our children? Can we take the risk of them seeing us participating, however marginally, in an activity rife with occultism? Jesus had harsh words for those who would cause such little ones to stumble! (Matthew 18:6) We work so hard at protecting them from the evil world around them, will we then be guilty of corrupting them for the sake of a celebration of that very evil? "Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character" (1 Corinthians 15:33).
The best thing we can do for our relationship with Jesus is devote ourselves entirely to Him.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2).
How fixed on Jesus can our eyes be if we are spending a night, or even an evening, thinking on darkness? So lets press on to know the Lord!
1. "Halloween" in Funk & Wagnall's New Encyclopedia, 29 vols. (Rand McNally, 1990), 12:348-349.
2. "The Origins of Halloween" by Rowan Moonstone
3. Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia
4. Grollier Multimedia Encyclopedia
5. "Halloween: October Festival of the Dead" by Jill Dakota (Online source)