What is Halloween and Should Christians Participate in the Festivities?Oct 18, 2022
Tis the season of ghosts and goblins, witches and vampires! It's one of the funnest holidays of the year! Children dress up in costumes and go door to door with their little plastic pumpkins lifted to receive sugary sweet rewards.
The origins of halloween are steeped in pagan practices, superstition, and fear of death. Most of our modern day traditions find their roots in the Celtic celebration of Samhein (SAH-win). Samhein means "summer's end." In this celebration the people thought that the veil that separates the living with the dead (and the spiritual) was so thin that spiritual beings could pass through and interact with those still alive. Families would prepare "treats" in the form of meals for their deceased loved ones in hopes of attracting them to their homes where they could visit for a bit.
Samhein also marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. Many of the rituals such a sacrifices made on bonfires (whose name was once "bone-fires" because of these sacrifices) were meant to ward off the inevitable hardships of the coming winter.
When Christianity reached the Celtic people, Samhein combined with All Saint's Day, which was a celebration of the saints who'd given their lives for their faith. This blend of cultures became a 3-day celebration at one time that included the eve before All Saint's Day, and the day after. And all of that made it's way to American soil with the potato famine in Ireland that created a great pilgrimage of Irish catholics. They brought their traditions with them, and those traditions adapted over the years to be what we have today...American neighborhoods biggest block party of the year!
When the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land, God specifically told them NOT to participate in the pagan practices of the Canaanites.
"When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. 10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. 13 You must be blameless before the Lord your God." Deuteronomy 18:9-13
From the beginning of the Israelite nation, God gave specific instructions on how they were to be "set apart" from other nations. Even now, on the other side of Jesus' death and resurrection where we know that the salvation God had in mind for Israel, was also the salvation for all mankind, we are still instructed to live "set apart" from the world:
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." I Peter 2:9
As Christ followers we are supposed to be different.
So, how do we "be different" during these next few weeks as we bump into a wildly popular and extremely fun holiday?
To answer this important question, let's look at what else the Bible says about how we ought to live in the world today:
Romans 12:2 says, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
Halloween is a fun holiday that creates an opportunity for those of us who are Christ followers to express our faith. We can do this by abstaining from all the festivities--if this is the path you choose I'd suggest that you replace trick-or-treating with a fun family outing; or an outrageous game night in so that your children don't look outside and suffer FOMO.
We can offer alternative activities. For years our church hosted a Fall festival on October 31 so that people in our community had a fun, family-friendly, Christ-centered halloween alternative. We promised to give out more candy than they could possibly get if their children went trick or treating. This was wildly successful and many churches still offer these fun alternatives! In my opinion it's a great investment into your community and a wonderful opportunity to share the gospel with kids and their parents.
We can participate in the fun, mingle with our neighbors and be intentional with our witness. If you do decide to go this route, consider ways your family might share the love of Jesus with your neighbors as you travel door-to-door. Many of our neighborhood have just as many adult trick or treating stations as they have candy for kids! The tradition of trick-or-treating has expanded to become a time for neighbors to meet neighbors, share in the fun and build meaningful relationships with each other.
Whatever you choose to do on Halloween, know that the Bible has specific instructions for you:
Matthew 5:13-16 says, "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
Colossians 3:17 "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
Check out my podcast on the origins of Halloween HERE! Origins of Halloween
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