Not everyone will agree with what I have to say about Halloween, but I’m getting asked so much about it that I thought I’d give you my thoughts and opinion. I will try to use Scripture to support my beliefs, but I’m not going to be dogmatic about this “disputable matter.” So, don’t get mad at me one way or the other, okay? 🙂
Halloween has origins that take us back to the Celtic people and a “festival of Samhain” that was held at the beginning of the Celtic year. At the Samhain Festival, farmers brought livestock in from summer pastures and people gathered to build shelters for winter. These pagan people burned fruits, vegetables, grain, and possibly animals as offerings to the gods. In ancient Celtic stories, “Samhain” was a time when the barriers between the natural world and the supernatural were broken. The Celts believed that the dead could walk among the living at this time. During Samhain, the living could visit with the dead, who they believed held secrets of the future.
Many of these pagan customs of the Celts survived even after the people became “Christianized.” In the 800’s A.D., the church established “All Saints’ Day” on November 1, which was set aside for people to remember lost loved ones and friends or family who had died. Unfortunately, people made many of the old pagan customs part of this Christian holy day. Some people put out food for their ancestors, or they left a lantern burning in the window so that the “ghosts” of their family members could “find their way home” in the night.
In the United States, many early American settlers came from England and they brought various beliefs about ghosts and witches with them. In the 1800s, many immigrants from Ireland and Scotland arrived in the United States and introduced their Halloween traditions. Other groups added their own cultural influences to Halloween customs. German immigrants brought a vivid witchcraft lore, and Haitian and African peoples brought their native voodoo beliefs about black cats, fire, and witchcraft.
Although our modern celebration of Halloween has some “religious” influences, there is nothing biblical about the holiday. Yes, it is affiliated with “All Saints’ Day,” but even this holiday is not supported by Scripture. The Bible does not tell us to pray for the dead. There is no purgatory the dead need to escape from. The spirits of the dead do not come back to visit us on earth. And there is no such thing as ghosts. The departed souls of all people are either in heaven or hades today. There are no spirits or disembodied spirits floating around.
So what should Christians do about Halloween? This is my personal conviction. I don’t celebrate Halloween. But, I will not go into a hole today. I will reach out to the world to share Jesus. I have the freedom to do that in Christ. I’m to be “in the world,” but not “of the world.”
I see no place in Scripture that tells us we can’t make lanterns out of gourds, or wear superhero or princess costumes, or ask neighbors for candy. Many churches and Christian organizations have Halloween alternatives, like Harvest Parties or Trunk or Treat. We are doing so at our church tonight. We’ll be reaching out to our community who will be riding the roads. We’ll be offering free hotdogs, candy and most of all the Gospel. We’ll be handing out information about the church and most importantly, Jesus with the candy tonight. I’m looking forward to sharing Christ with our community as I drop some Milky Way’s and Snickers’ in their kids’ bags. I see tonight as an opportunity to witness.
However, if the origins of Halloween convict you, as a Christian to reject the entire holiday, you have the freedom to do so, while giving others the freedom to act on their own beliefs. Within the church, we are not to judge anyone who uses their Christian liberty in a way that contradicts our personal convictions. Romans 14:5-6 says:
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
At the same time, verses 13-19 say we are not to use our liberty to lead another into an act that he or she regards as sin. “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean” (Romans 14:14).
Our heart attitude should not be one that tries to justify the secular tradition of Halloween; nor should it be one that seeks out evil intent where there is none. Instead, we should strive to glorify God in all that we do. Whether we go trick-or-treating, attend a Harvest Party, Trunk or Treat or ignore the day altogether, our actions should reflect God’s leading on our own lives.