October 19, 2017
For most of us, October brings images of jack o’ lanterns, candies, witches, and Halloween parties. For those of us who live in gated villages, it’s that time of the year to go trick or treating dressed up as your favorite superhero or character. And for some of us, this is the season to watch horror movies or share scary urban legends with family and friends, with the goal of getting terrified together.
But before we dress up in our Halloween best, one question for Christians to consider is, how should we respond to Halloween? Is it wrong to take part in it since the Bible warns us not to practice any form of witchcraft or sorcery? As Leviticus 19:31 says:
“Do not defile yourselves by turning to mediums or to those who consult the spirits of the dead. I am the LORD your God.”
But what if you’re just there to have fun with friends? God does not forbid us to celebrate Halloween for fun, does He? Before you answer this question, here are three possible responses for consideration.
Some Christians prefer locking their doors to trick or treaters and adopting a “No participation” policy. When asked why they do so, they take this opportunity to share their faith. For them, taking part in the festivities could lead to spiritually compromising activities like scaring each other with horror stories or dressing up like witches.
This position is strengthened when one considers the possible pagan origins of the holiday. It is widely believed that Halloween dates back to the Celtic Festival of Samhain, who is dubbed to be the lord of death and evil spirits. Long before Jesus came, Druids or the ancient Celtic priests in what is now known as Britain and France, marked their major celebrations based on the season. The final harvest and the start of winter from October 31-November 2 was specifically for Samhain.
For the Druids, this dark winter season was likened to death. They believed that this was the time when the curtain dividing the living and the dead was lifted, allowing the spirits of the dead to walk among the living. The fear that earthbound spirits could play nasty tricks on people fueled even more superstitions. To make sure that the spirits would not haunt them, the Druids would offer sacrifices like food and possessions. New traditions to scare off the spirits were birthed like dressing up in costumes or putting candles in gourds carved with scary faces (the modern jack o’ lantern).
It is said that Pope Gregory IV moved the celebration of All Saints’ Day or All Hallows’ Eve to November 1 to respond to the pagan ritual. As time passed, Samhain and All Hallows’ Eve practices mixed together. With Hollywood marketing mixed with superstition, Halloween has become even more of an attraction, especially to the younger generation.
While the Christians who reject Halloween stand by these reasons for rejecting Halloween, is this the only possible response?
At the other end of the spectrum are those who fully participate in all the Halloween parties and activities. Some do this out of ignorance, blindly following the crowd and not knowing why we celebrate it in the first place. For them, the occasion just calls for some harmless fun with family and friends.
Then there are those who plan their own celebration as a way to redeem All Saints’ Day. Here are some ways they do this:
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
The aim of the Christian life is to do what pleases God. When we’re confused on what to do, the desire to honor God makes our way clear. With this in mind, I encourage you to pray and discern how to best honor God as Halloween draws near.