The following is an article written by my ministry partner, Rev. Kevin S. Johnson. Kevin is the president of the Institute for Christian Apologetics. In this article, Kevin offers a balanced view of how we as Christians ought to respond to Halloween. You'll also see a link to ICA in my links sidebar if you'd like to check out the rest of what ICA has to offer.
HALLOWEEN - A Celebration of the Dead!
A Short History Of Halloween
The practice of celebrating the fall or harvest is one that can be traced back into the dim recesses of mankind's early recorded history. Ancient agrarian societies had reason to celebrate if the crops were good. They felt "the gods" were blessing them because they (the people) had been obedient in presenting the kind of sacrifices the "gods" demanded.
Demons or fallen angels can affect the weather. Satan caused a tornadic wind as is recorded in the book of Job 1:18 that killed Job's children. The New Testament calls the "gods" demons or "fallen angels" (see 1 Corinthians 10:20.). This causal relationship between demonic entities, idols and the weather should humble us in our appraisal of the ancient peoples. They were not necesarily irrational in their bondage to idols.
This took place in areas inhabited by an early European tribal group known as the Celts. These lands were primarily Ireland, Wales and parts of England although prior to that the Celts originated as far south as Northern Spain. The representatives of their "gods" were Druidic priests. The "priests" were considered intermediaries of the gods and were treated with fear and respect. These "ambassadors" would tell the people that the gods wanted them to give offerings to them in order to placate them, and that if the offerings were appropriate, the gods would be satisfied and would bless them with good crops the next year. That was fairly standard practice for pagan priests throughout the world.
The Druids added a special flair to this that is akin to the racket of offering "protection" used by organized crime today. They would tell their followers that at least once a year there would be a celebration made to honor the god of the dead known as "Samhain". This marked the death of the old year and the birth of the new year. The priests taught the people they would come to collect offerings (usually foodstuffs for their own peculiar dietary requirements) on this holiday.
If offerings were not forthcoming the household withholding the offering would be cursed. This sometimes included the possibility that a demand would be made for a family member to come forward to be used as a human sacrifice. These would be taken and murdered. They would then be placed on a sacrificial funeral pyre known as a "Bone Fire" (ie: bonfire). The site of the fire would usually be on a prominent hill where it could be a visual reminder of the price of resistance.
The Druids would go door to door saying, "Be blessed or be hexed". (This not so subtle threat of extortion has come down to our day as "Trick or Treat!") As they went door-to-door, they were dressed in robes with magical markings on them, and had hal lowed out turnips with the face of a demon carved in it and an oil lamp smoking and glimmering inside. Does this sound familiar? This later in Ireland was known as "Jack of The Lantern" (Jack-o-lantern). It represented a light for the spirits of the dead to follow.
As the Roman Empire conquered the British Isles bringing the famous "Pax Romana" (the peace imposed by Roman might) the Druids lost prestige and followers and no longer were able to terrorize the people in the same manner. The festival did not go away however and soon the mythology of the "night of the dead" developed.
This was imagined to be the night when the fabric between the dimensions or realm of the spirit was so thin that you could make contact easier on this night than on all others. It was believed that the spirits (thought to be of departed humans or the gods) with their secret or greater knowledge could influence divination devices (the Ouija board is a modern day counterpart) and events in the physical world more easily on this special night.
Therefore certain practices were developed to better com municate with the dead. Such communication known specifically as "necromancy" is forbidden in God's word. (see Deuteronomy 18:9-22).The pamphlet "Holidays and Holy Days" by Tom Mckinney says, "Since Samhain was the beginning of the New Year, much divining was done concerning the coming year. A very popular form was to kneel around a tub of water with apples floating in it and the first one who could get it out without using his hands or teeth would have good favor with the spirits in the coming year. Then each would peel his (or her) apple, trying to get the peel off in one piece (which gave the peeling particular power, and gained special favor with the spirits). The peel was then thrown over the left shoulder, and, whirling quickly about, each was supposed to see an apparition (ghostly vision) of the one who would become his or her sex partner (or spouse, depending upon local custom) during the coming year."
Enter Roman Catholicism
With the dawning of the Christian era in Europe the Roman Church decided it would be better to redefine certain festivals and holidays "converting" them if you will into Christian holidays. This is the origin of the timing of Christmas, St. Valentines' Day, and to some lesser extent Easter.
In the eighth century the Pope decided to do something about the Samhain Festival. The approach was to change the timing of the holy day celebrating the lives of past Christians from Springtime to November First. Mckinney says, "In the British Isles, All Saints Day came to be called "All Halloweds" since it was a day to honor all the "hallowed ones", the Christian dead. Since Samhain always occurred the evening before All Halloweds, it came to be called "All Halloweds Evening," or just "Hallowed's E'en" and finally to "Halloween" as we know it today. Because of the relationship in the names, and the adjacent dates, many today entertain the completely unfounded idea that Halloween is somehow a Christian holiday." This has allowed otherwise orthodox churches to have Halloween parties in the church itself. This contributes to the weakening of the Christian witness against oc cult and satanic symbolism drawn and worn by youth throughout the rest of the year. If its O.K. one day, then why not all days?
Enter The New World
The seventeenth century saw immigration from the British Isles increase and many left England for religious freedom.The conservative Christians (largely progressive Puritans) who came to the New World passed laws forbidding occult practices. This, of course, included Halloween as it had by then been adopted by Wiccans or witches as their special day.
A tragedy developed in Salem, Massachusetts where laws that where designed to protect society from the effects of the occult ended in the execution of innocent people on the testimony of some unstable teenage girls. The fact of occultism being a reality at that time in the colonies is documented in the excellent book, "The Light and the Glory", by Peter Marshall Jr..
What the people at Salem were violating was Jesus' command to not "pull the tares up with the wheat lest in pulling them up you also destroy the wheat" (Matthew 13:29). We are to deal with heresy by converting the heretics, not killing them! After they are converted they will be considered executed by God as He then counts them in Christ. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me..." (Galatians 2:20).
As more Celtic immigrants came to America they brought Halloween with them. "Jack of The Lantern" turnips were exchanged for the larger American pumpkin. The holiday flourished. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, The Church became "comfortable" and raised little protest. Those who objected were looked at as "witch hunters" a term like the modern "Mcarthyism" that was meant to bring a knee jerk reaction. This supposedly linked one with "unenlightened" thinking akin to those in Salem, Massachusetts who had killed people on unreliable tes timony.
As the mercantilism of the industrial revolution of the nineteenth and twentieth century increased, so did the selling of all holidays with Halloween being no exception. Today it is a huge industry with millions spent each year on cards, movies, videos, games, pumpkins, candy and costume accesories.
There are a lot of people who have a vested interest in seeing it perpetuated. This is without mentioning those that are philosophically inclined to New Age and Occult thinking that see Halloween as an annual opportunity to give a benign and fun face to their practices. This lures unsuspecting ones through curiosity and fond memories of crisp cold air, next door neigh bors giving them candy, and dressing up as some exotic or goulish character. This fails to mention "harmless" trick or treating and maybe some juvenile mischief like soaping of windows and toilet papering yards. Never mind that someone elderly could have had a heart attack cleaning the mess up. In fact, why should anyone have to clean up a mess deliberately made in the name of "holiday fun"?
Modern Satanists, pagans, neo-pagans, and Wiccans all view Halloween as a high magic day when spells are to be performed. Ritual celebrations of all stripes are conducted then. It should sadden the hearts of true Christians to know the idolatry that centers on Halloween annually. Our young people as their ancient counterparts still try to contact the dead through the Ouija board. This divination "game" can be purchased at the toy store! We have all seen this form of idolatry. The Apostle Paul was greatly distressed by the idols he saw in Athens (See Acts 17) and we are to follow his example (Phillipians 3:17). Do You?
Scriptures To Use When Evaluating Halloween
(Please look these up and study them to make your own evaluation)
Deuteronomy Chapter 12:1-6 and 29-32
This entire chapter addresses the idea of "converting" pagan religious practices and using them in the worship of the one true God. Since God doesn't change in His moral attributes (Hebrews 13:8) those things that He hated in the Old Testament would still be eschewed in the present and forever. The principles revealed in the Old Covenant are still relevant to us. This bears directly on the Catholic churches perhaps well-intentioned but still wrong practice of converting holidays.
Deuteronomy Chapter 18:9-22
An important list is given here that tells of God's disgust at certain occult practices. Drawing attention to these practices by making them appealing for "fun's" sake or casting them in a positive light at all would certainly not be pleasing to the heart of our Heavenly Father.
2 Corinthians 6:17
This tells Christians to come out from the midst of the wickedness of this Christ rejecting world and be separate from them. The idea embodied in the Hebrew concept of holiness is set forth here. The people of God are to be unique and different from the world around them as a witness to them.
This Scripture commands us to have nothing to do with the "unfruitfull works of darkness" but to even expose them.
What About Costume Parties?
We see nothing wrong with playing "dress up" or going to gatherings as long as Christian propriety is considered in what costumes are worn. It may be wise to not do this on Halloween as you may be mistaken for approving of this "holiday" but that is between you and the Lord. You have been called to freedom.
What About Trick or Treating?
Aside from the obvious social and physical dangers that exist in the form of poisoned candy, getting hit by cars, temptations to vandalize, and the potential for encountering unsavory characters at night, there are spiritual concerns. The whole "horror movie" mentality that teaches occultism to our children is an integral part of the ambience of Halloween. To deny this is to be willfully out of touch with the modern world, mentally comatose, or just plain dishonest. Part of this mentality is the notion that "might makes right" or "give me what I want (treat), or I'll take revenge" (trick)! "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," God says in Deuteronomy 32:35 and He means it. Vengeance belongs to God for only He knows how to administer it in a just way. It does not belong to human beings! Vengeance, coercion, and extortion are not allowed. What message are we sending when we allow participation in "Trick or Treating" when it still smacks of its demonic origins?
What About Giving Candy Out?
This is a real concern to conscientious Christians who don't want to participate or seem to encourage this holiday. Our recommendation may seem surprising given our stance up to this point. I did tell you we are not legalists but try to do that which has a spiritually sweet savor to the Lord. Christians should always be ready to give of themselves. We should be known for our generousity. When someone comes to our door it is almost always an opportunity to give (This includes Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses). When little children who many times are not at a point in their lives to understand what they are doing, yell "Trick or Treat!" they are asking, perhaps demanding, that we give them candy. Jesus said that if someone asks you for your shirt you should give them your coat also. That should answer whether we give or not. What do we give though? The answer to that is found in the words of Jesus and in common sense. Jesus said to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". This is an invitation to put yourself in the other guy's moccasins for a while and ask yourself what you would want if you were that particular person. Do you think a little six-year-old really wants a gospel tract when he or she comes to your door? No. They want CANDY! Now that doesn't rule out the Gospel tract just don't let it be the only thing you give them. Can't you just hear the talk?...."Those people in that nasty old house just gave me a dumb ol' piece of paper!"... "What did it say?"..."I don't know I just threw it away!"
What About School Participation?
This is a great time to let your children learn firsthand the feeling of being a Daniel, a Shadrach, a Meshach, or an Abednego. Read them the stories of these young men of faith who wouldn't bow to that which was idolatrous but stood firm for God even though everyone thought them foolish. You could rob your child of the opportunity to develop character in the area of standing alone for what is right. That ability will come in handy throughout life, especially when the crowd is doing life threatening drugs or sex during the impressionable teen years.
Just send a note to the teachers, or better yet, meet with them and explain your desires that your child not participate in drawing witches or composing poems about witches and witchcraft. Tell them they will not be attending "parades" or parties that are to occur during school time. Otherwise, he or she will not be attending at all on Halloween day. It would be wise to plan some thing fun and worthwhile with your child for that day so he or she won't feel ostracised or left out.
How Much Should I Tell My Kids?
Tell them all they can handle at the age they are at. As a concerned Christian parent you are the one who is in the best position to know how much they can handle. Answer any questions they raise about the occult. Explain why God hates idolatry and why they should agree with Him. Tell them the love of God compels Him and you to restrict those things that are dangerous to them. Head the devil off at the "pass" by letting them hear about these things from you. This will stave off the impression you are naive and also take away any mystique from the words of a stranger that might attempt to lure them.
Learn all you can from credible Christian sources that know about the occult and know how to apply the Bible to make it relevant. Some people fear there are things in the Bible that their children are not ready to know. That may be true, depending on their age since the Bible hspeaks to all stages.of life. You may be surprised, however, at how much of God's word can be understood and applied at any age. Whatever God has put in the Bible is there for the reason of loving you and bringing glory to His name -use it!
Also, remember God has given your child to you, not the state, not the teachers, and certainly not the media and television producers! Since He has trusted you with such an awesome charge, take it seriously! Don't be intimidated by outside pressures from any of the above, not even from your extended family if they are not Christians and don't share what is precious to you regarding the Bible. Don't be obedient to your child but insist, through loving training, that he or she be obedient to you! Be influenced by God in all of this as He reveals Himself to you in His word.
Some Final Thoughts
Mount Carmel Outreach and The Institute For Christian Apologetics defends the liberty of the believer in Christ. Bondage to any legalism is not desired. We have defended the right of Christians to celebrate other holidays (such as Christmas) against the assaults of the cults ie: Jehovah's Witnesses that teach we mustn't have Christmas trees and should not celebrate any birthdays including Jesus'!
Having said all that, we find we simply cannot give the same kind of approval to the "holiday" of Halloween. With the rise of Satanism and the Occultism of the New Age Movement so prominent, the enemy will use any and all devices to seduce our children (and adults!) into that murky worldview. It is very important our children do not get mixed messages from us.
It has been said, "what parents allow in moderation children allow in excess". Some Christians see no harm in "going with the flow" celebrating Halloween as long as their kids are dressed up as a butterfly and not the devil or a witch. The real question we believe we should ask ourselves is: Does what I am doing honor God or is it just pleasing to myself? The Bible tells us that we are "bought with a price" and that whether we ( all Christians, not just some) live or die we should do so as unto the Lord. Jesus said, "Let the dead bury the dead" (Matthew 8:22). Perhaps we should say let the spiritually dead imitate the dead, if they must, but we won't!