Halloween: History of the Dead, Fun, and Christian Angst

Third most popular holiday in the U.S. gets a closer look

Last night, on the local news, one of the TV reporters was broadcasting a segment from a haunted house amusement park…it may have been Knott’s “Scarry” Farm, an annual park transformation, but I did not confirm that. The costumes and Hollywood style makeup of the participants hanging out by the reporter were pretty gross looking…as in creepy.

After the initial “ooooooh, yuck” it gets kinda old for me. I mean call me old fashioned, but an occasional “boo” is about as frightful as I want to receive or give these days. Beyond that, the whole concept of playing around with terror seems pointless. Year after year, as the ghoulish out gore each other, taking blood and disfiguration to the next level, I begin to wonder if some people aren’t placing too much importance on this sort of thing…some even worshipping the whole experience…some even taking it to more than just one day a year.

So, of course, I’m not going to “preach” against Halloween, just maybe flesh it out a bit. Many Christians struggle with Halloween, some taking part in some sort of alternative. Others ignoring the whole enchilada.

Here’s the best thing I’ve seen written so far about the subject. Although the writer downplays the fear factor…I still hold to the fact that some can get swept up into the insanity part of it. Especially, if as a Christian you are playing on both sides of the fence.

This from Glen D. Williams’ blog:

Halloween History and Christian Life

Halloween, we hear, is now the third most popular “holiday” in the USA. Many Christians are very concerned about the meanings of Halloween customs, the seeming glorification and celebration of witches, ghosts and other spiritual beings, and the whole idea of having a holiday related to the dead.

We’re going to take a look at Halloween history, customs, the dead and the question of Christian involvement in the celebration. Be ready to be startled by some of the surprising things we’ve learned.

What Is Halloween? The word comes from an abbreviation of “All Hallows Eve.” This is the night before All Hallows (All Saints) Day, when the Church honors the past (dead) Christians. All Saints Day is also known as the day Martin Luther nailed his protest of the Catholic Church and began the Protestant movement.

There have been different dates for All Saints Day. It’s commonly believed that November 1st was chosen to coincide with pagan celebrations and festivals in order to more easily assimilate these cultures into the Church, just like the dates for Easter and Christmas celebrations.

It’s this assimilation of festivals that makes Halloween a confusing holiday. Where Did Halloween Customs Come From? When All Saints Day and the pagan festivals were combined, the rituals and customs were also combined. Wearing costumes, ghosts, witches, carrying lighted ornaments to represent spirits, the whole trick-or-treat thing, harvest parties, etc. got combined over the centuries with what had been a somber event in the Christian calendar.

Some of these rituals had been sacrifices to pagan gods before the pagans were Christianized. And there’s the rub! Christians, who have no problem with the Christmas Tree or Easter Egg (pagan rituals), seem to draw the line when it comes to the Halloween pagan rituals and customs…particularly those involving the dead. What Does It Have To Do With The Dead?

Actually, All Saints Day and Halloween share the idea of honoring the dead…they just differ on the methods. Many of the pagan rituals include tributes to the dead. That’s probably why ghost costumes and tombstones have become Halloween classics.

I don’t understand the discomfort many Christians have with the idea of spirits being everywhere, or of spiritual life beyond physical death…it’s the cornerstone of Christianity as taught in the Bible. Why would we be so frightened of what’s on the other side of death? Many are so afraid, they keep their children from participating in the fun of Halloween. Should A Christian Refrain From Halloween Celebration?

Once, early in my Christian walk, I believed it was a sin to have anything that had represented a belief in any power but God. I got rid of 4 leaf clovers, horseshoes, totem poles…symbols of pagan gods…so these things would have no power over me. After I grew a little in Christ and read the Bible a little more, It hit me…nothing has power over me because Christ is in me. In fact, by thinking these things had power, I was giving them the very power I opposed.

It’s the same with Christians and Halloween. Carving pumpkins, setting up witch statues, wearing ghost costumes, going to people’s doors to collect treats…all of these rituals are mere games as long as we don’t make anything more out of them.

As a Christian, the most powerful being in all eternity lives within you. There is no power that can harm you. I’m not denying that evil spirits exist but when we Christians live in fear of them, we’re giving them power they don’t have.

So, should Christians take part in Halloween? Yes…and no! If you believe it’s a sin, pagan worship or anti-Christian in any way, you should refrain. Spend some time in Bible study and prayer to grow your faith until you have confidence that He who is in you is greater than all. If you’ve already reached that point in your spiritual growth, go have fun! Let your kids have fun, too!

While you’re at it, don’t forget to teach your kids about All Saints Day and about the power of Jesus in them, protecting them from all harm…even from goblins.

Glen Williams is an Ordained Minister, Founder and CEO of E-Home Fellowship (EHF), Inc. and Webmaster for http://www.web-church.com He has been active in ministry since 1989. Click here for original post.

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18 thoughts on “Halloween: History of the Dead, Fun, and Christian Angst

  1. Pingback: Hlloween:Popular holiday in the U.S. gets a closer look « Xntric pundits

  2. I have been a born again Christian for 10 years now and during these 10 years I have been avoiding Halloween because…… you know death, witches, evil spirits, etc. Never once did I think to research the Holiday to find out when and why it began and why the costumes went from one extreme to the other. I have an 8 year old son that has never been trick or treating. Although we do have a fall festival at our church where the children are allowed to dress up as bible characters and I let him participate in that. I really need to step up my faith and pray a little more on the things I seem to fear and hide away in my most inner self. I do know that He who is in me is greater than all, so why do I have these hidden fears? Yes, there is going to be some real praying on my part about this and any other fears I may be hiding away. Thanks for sharing your knowledge it has been very enlighting.

  3. Can’t say I agree 100% with the article, but it gives Christians something to think about in seeking God’s will on this issue for their families. But there remain unanswered questions in my mind.

    Occult themes are overtly present in the Halloween holiday, and I would think that more Scriptures such as “what fellowship hath light with darkness?” and ones talking about thinking on things that are pure are more on target. There are “lukewarmness,” “stumbling block,” and “worldliness” issues the Bible speaks of that the article does not address very well if at all. I guess I was hoping for a more Biblical argument perspective rather than another Christian’s “take” on the history of Halloween.

  4. Finally, someone stating a good logical slant on Halloween. If we as Christians have to throw out anything relating to Pagan practices, the Christmas celebrations would be next as the date Dec. 25 was picked due to another pagan holiday. I think people overreact to non-issues and lose sight of what our mission should truly be.

  5. Pingback: Halloween Open Forum at TheScroogeReport « TheScroogeReport

  6. Enjoyed the article. I just had a discussion with my wife the other day about Halloween and I can now go back to her and tell her I was wrong. (Hope she doesn’t get too used to that 😉

    Cheers
    James

  7. Hello James:
    While I know you mean well — I think you are sadly mistaken and need to brush up on the Bible. I’m also a pastor and I warn my flock to avoid celebrating a pagan holiday that once included burning babies as a sacrifice to Satan.

    **article link taken out because of questionable content on site**

    It’s not too late to change your mind!
    Best,
    Colson

  8. @Colson…you are welcome to cut and paste some of your article in comments here. Sorry, but the art for that post was somewhat graphic and the website is kind of spooky…to be honest.

  9. The difference between Halloween, Christmas, and Easter is that with Halloween there has been no attempt to “redeem” current cutural practices to glorify Christ. The evergreen Christmas tree–once a pagan symbol–now reminds us of eternal life (evergreen–no death). The Easter Egg is a symbol of New Life in Jesus and the power of the resurrection. Yes, both of those holidays have secular meanings in today’s culture, as well, but not ones that blatantly and specifically honor our Enemy. A Christian can enjoy Christmas trees and Easter eggs while completely focusing on Jesus. Can you walk with your kids down a street filled with ghoul and goblin wannabees, stepping past dummies hanging by their necks from trees and “blood”-covered decorations, and not see that the world is–inadvertantly or otherwise–honoring the Prince of Darkness? Today’s Halloween is not like any other holiday, and refraining from participating in it is not about fear. It’s about changed desires. Jesus is my Lord, and I am just not comfortable with paying any semblance of homage to His sworn Enemy just so my kids don’t “miss out” on one of our cultural traditions.

  10. I do not agree with this article. It is not fear as to why we don’t celebrate Halloween. We don’t (my family) doesn’t celebrate Halloween because that it is celebrating something that doesn’t emulate God. I don’t want to give glory to satan because of this particular day. That to me is crazy. We don’t do harvest parties or halloween or anything. We enjoy our time together as a family and this doesn’t change my families ideas.

  11. i have to agree with family christian shop , I was hoping for a more Biblical argument perspective rather than another Christian’s “take” on the history of Halloween. However, i think that we shouldnot be too concern on whether halloween is good or bad, but to use this holiday to present Christ. I’m not saying that you should dress your kids with costumes that don’t glorify God and be part of whole halloween celebration. But, yes ,find an alternative for them to be part of this world but not of the world and it will help them to evanglize their to friends. Last year, in my church we did a “Light the Night” Party. in where kids picked a character that they liked from the bible and dress as their favorite character. For example, one kid liked Samson, So we bought muscle vest and a long wig. That night he brought a friend to the church and his friend asked him what was he suppose to be, and the kid told his friend the whole story about Samson and how God used him with his strength. I am not sure where this verse is, but it says “You have done evil but I ( the Lord speaking) turn it for good. We have freedom in God to do many things but there are those things that really will not help us grow and will not bring glory to God. So concentrate more on what will make your faith stronger.

    Peace and Love

  12. MY UNDERSTANDING OF HALLOWEEN IS THE CELEBRATION OF THE HARVEST MOON AND A TIME TO WARD OFF EVEIL SPIRITS.WE PLACE LANTERNS IN OUR WINDOWS TO KEEP EVIL SPIRITS AWAY AND WE CELEBRATE THE MOON IN HOPES FOR A GREAT FALL HARVEST.I SEE NO HARM IN THE CELEBRATION OF HALLOWEEN AS LONG AS WE REMEMBER THAT GOD IS THE TRUE SOURCE OF ALL OUR BLESSINGS.

    MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU SAFE!!

    • I’m wondering if you really remember that God is the true source of all your blessings. If so, why are you celebrating the moon and using lanterns to keep away evil spirits. Isn’t that the Lord’s realm of responsibility?

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