Perspective on Halloween
by Pastor Ken Parrish

As Christianity spread through Europe in the 3rd and 4th centuries, Christians encountered a race of people known as Celts in what is modern day northern France and the British Isles. The Celts were a pagan people, worshiping many gods. The religious order, or priests, of the Celts were known as Druids, and are the forerunner of modern day witches. Their main deity was known as Samhain, the god of the dead. The Druids were soothsayers, fortune tellers, and magicians. Part of their religious ceremony included animal and sometimes human sacrifice. The sacrifices were burned on huge fires called bonfires. (Bone from the sacrifices + fire = bonfire.) They believed they could tell fortunes and predict the future by the way their sacrifices would struggle with death. They would also tell fortunes by "reading" the intestines of the slain animals. For the Celts, November 1 marked the beginning of a new year, thus October 31 marked the death of the old year. They believed that Samhain would allow all the souls of the wicked dead to return on the evening of the 31st, which would then go from house to house seeking nourishment, and placing a curse on any home that refused - i.e., "trick-or-treat"! Food and drink were often left outside to appease them. One of the beliefs concerning the custom of carving a face into a pumpkin and putting a light into it (a Jack-o-lantern) was that the lighted face would scare away these ghosts.

In the 8th century, as Christianity spread and was embraced by the Celts, the church attempted to appease them by establishing it's own celebration on November 1 called All Saints Day, or, All Souls Day, as a day to honor the Christian dead. The hope was that the worship of Samhain would be abandoned. Instead, however, the Celts continued to worship Samhain with all the usual pagan practices on the evening before All Saints Day (November 1), or, the evening of October 31. An old english word for saint is hallowed. The evening before All Saints Day, or All Hallows Day, when the god of the dead was worshiped and the pagan rituals were practiced, became known as All Hallows Evening, which was shortened to Hallows E'en, and eventually Halloween. Years later, the Romans added their own celebration of the goddess of fruit, Pomona, to the festival, with it's custom of bobbing for apples for the purpose of fortune telling. Catching an apple meant you would be getting married that year, and by peeling it and "reading" the peeling you could learn who your spouse would be. 

The celebration of Halloween was brought to the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries by immigrants from Scotland and Ireland. The festival was at first resisted by Christians who refused to compromise their faith, believing that Christians should not incorporate pagan festivals into their own way of life (Exodus 23:24), but should live lives separated unto the Lord (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). The many stories of defeat and destruction for the people of God in the Bible was proof to them that to compromise God's standard was to put yourself in harm's way.

Modern day witchcraft and even Satanism are rooted in the beliefs and customs of the ancient Druids. October 31 is the highest of four high holy days of modern witches, who conduct a "Witches Sabbat" (sabbath), a ceremony which includes wild parties, drunkenness, immorality, and animal (and possibly human) sacrifices. Pure Satanists conduct a Black Mass (a perversion of the Catholic Mass) where they worship the devil, believing that he has suffered wrongly and was unjustly driven out of heaven. Their ceremony is similar to that of witches, but also includes the blood of the sacrifice, which is a perversion of Holy Communion.

For some children, the celebration of Halloween is just an opportunity to dress up in a costume and collect candy door to door. But for others, the activities of Halloween run from "harmless" pranks and practical jokes to destruction of private property. Some children play with Ouija boards or conduct sťances, consulting the dead, a practice forbid in the scriptures. Others "pretend" to practice witchcraft or invoke curses as though it's all make believe and harmless, innocent fun. We live under the false impression that the demonic realm is nothing more than a myth. But make no mistake! Demons are very real, and can manifest where invited! Consider that the themes for Halloween are evil, fear, violence, bloodshed, and death, themes that can give smaller children nightmares. Most psychologists agree that at least some of the violence in our society is related to the glorification of bloodshed in many of today's movies and television shows. Are these the kinds of things we should be promoting in the minds of our children?
Is "trick-or-treat" a philosophy we should be teaching them? Is this training up our children in the way they should go? Romans 12:14, 17, and 21 say, "Bless those who persecute you, bless and curse not", "Never pay back evil for evil to anyone", and "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good".

While separating our children from the "evil" side of Halloween is good, we must also consider our Christian witness and take into account the perception of unbelievers and weaker brothers when we consider our participation in this festival, for we may well be sending mixed messages! Unless we make our position clearly known, unbelievers may perceive us to be saying there is nothing wrong with Halloween, and weaker brothers may perceive us as compromising our faith! Two scriptures that should be considered are 1 Thessalonians 5:22 and Romans 14 (the entire chapter). 1 Thessalonians tells us that we are to abstain from the appearance of evil, not just from evil itself. And Romans 14 tells us that, as Christians, we are never to consider just our own desires, but we should always consider how what we are doing will effect someone else - what kind of witness are we being for the Lord - and to determine that we will never do anything that would cause another person to stumble, even if it's something we would like very much to do! To honor the Lord in all things is our destiny and calling as Christians.

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