A Trick or a Treat?
Young Women's Sunday School Class
All Scripture references are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (C) 1978 by the New York Bible Society used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers
Every year when October rolls around the signs of the approach of Halloween are obvious everywhere: stores are carrying Halloween candy, Halloween costumes, Halloween party favors, Halloween greeting cards, Halloween decorations, scary soundtracks and lighting effects, ghoulish make-up, pumpkins, bundled corn stalks and other paraphernalia. One sees advertisements for "haunted houses," "haunted hayrides," “fright night,” and other scary attractions published in newspapers, posted in store windows, and plastered on signposts at major intersections. Businesses and homeowners begin to decorate for the holiday with skeletons, ghosts and witches, black cats, bats, fake spider webs, gravemarkers, jack o' lanterns, and even Halloween inflateables. On October 31st millions of children and adults don costumes that range from the frightening to the fanciful and either take to the streets to go "Trick or treating" door-to-door, or more recently, to go to a mall or other "safe" place for "Trick or treating;" or, they go to parties to celebrate the occasion. In some areas of the country October 30th is included in the Halloween festivities as "Mischief Night."
Halloween is an American tradition that grows in importance every year, despite cruel incidents in the past. And this celebration is not just observed in the United States: in Ireland, Scotland, Canada, and the Philippines October 31st is Halloween; in England, November 5th is a Halloween-type celebration, Guy Fawkes Day (ostensibly a commemoration of the British Parliament's escape from a bombing attempt by revolutionary, Guy Fawkes); in Brigus, Newfoundland, November 5th is Bonfire Night (a remaking of the British Guy Fawkes Day); and in Mexico, November 2nd is "The Festival of the Dead" to remember deceased family members and friends (in Texas this festival is called "All Soul's Day"). In Catholic countries, especially those of southern Europe and Latin America, All Saints' Day (November 1st) and All Soul's Day (November 2nd) are observed as important religious holidays. Certainly, many parts of the world have celebrations that are intertwined with what we know as "Halloween," but where did these traditions come from? What is their significance? Are they merely harmless festivals of revelry and pretense, or is there something more sinister to them?
II. History and Practice
The roots of Halloween can be traced back more than 2,000 years to 700 B.C., to the Bronze Age Celts, an agrarian, tribal society which primarily occupied Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, and the Brittany region of northern France, but also dwelled in parts of Spain, Italy, Greece, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Yugoslavia, and Turkey. They were polytheistic, worshiping a variety of gods of nature, and also their own ancestors. Their two greatest religious celebrations were held at the onset of winter, the season of dark, on November 1st (Samhain, pronounced "sow in"), when the herds were brought in to shelter; and at the onset of summer, the season of light, on May 1st (Belthane), when the herds were released to the pasturelands. Samhain began on November Eve, or the evening of October 31st (because the Celtic day began at night), whereas Belthane commenced at dawn on May 1s. Samhain was actually the most sacred of all Celtic festivals, a "festival of the dead," and part of a three day Druid celebration of sacrifices, dancing, feasting and family reunions and high spirits. November 1st marked two things: one, the beginning of winter and the New Year (when death and darkness reigned); and two, the end of the season of the sun. The November 1st celebration of Samhain was a day of dual religious activity: it was a communal sacrifice of thanksgiving and feasting, held to appease the gods; and it was "Taman," a second feast dedicated to pleasing and glorifying the gods of the harvest (Baal). (It was also a day in which to engage in commerce activities.)
On the eve of Samhain (October 31st) the Celts believed that the gates separating the living and the dead were opened, which allowed evil spirits and the souls of the previous year's dead to return to the earth, and enabled the living to contact the spirit world, and particularly the gods. Some sources say that October 31st was the time when Saman, the Lord of Death, sentenced the wicked to twelve months of afterlife as a lowly animal, and called the wicked souls of those who had died within the previous twelve months to come out of the bodies of animals they had been condemned to inhabit. On that night Saman judged good souls to twelve months of afterlife as humans. This powerful god, who looked like “The Grim Reaper,” would allow the spirits of deceased ancestors to return to earth for a brief visits to their families if sacrifices of food and gifts were offered to him. Returning spirits could be malevolent, though—harming crops and animals, and troubling families by stealing babies—so people would dress up as "spirits," with masks and animal skins, to either fool wandering spirits into mistaking them as one of their own (and thus leaving them alone) or to lead the demonic spirits to the edge of town (thus preserving the safety of the town). People would also appease the evil spirits by leaving gifts of the finest food outside their homes, and such gifts were also left outside to nourish the souls of their departed relatives who had returned. As well, they lit fires outside of their towns to draw evil spirits to the fire’s warmth and away from their dwellings. In later times they would place carved turnip lanterns in their windows or carry them around their villages warnings to spirits that they could become lost souls.
The priests of the Celts, the Druids, were responsible for the communion between the dead and the living. On October 31st they presided at huge, sacred bonfires, which were lit on select high hills to renew the sun-god (and to drive away evil spirits). The Celts would dance in rings around these bonfires as their priests, the Druids, offered sacrifices upon them. They burned objects that represented the personal prayers of the people for wishes and well-being, and they sacrificed living beings as well, according to accounts by Julius Caesar and Tacitus. (Interestingly, the word “bonfire” is derived from this practice: it originally meant, “a fire of bones.”) To appease their gods the Druids burned crated animals (horses, oxen, cats, black sheep, even bats?) and criminals; they would divine the future by carefully observing the movements of the entrails of their victims as they died. Their gods demanded blood sacrifices: one Celtic god, Cromm Cruac, demanded the sacrifice of one-third of the Celtic children as insurance for a fertile growing season. For centuries the Druids continued to offer these grisly sacrifices (and some say, still do).
The Romans conquered Britain just before the birth of Christ, and ruled the Celts from the first to the fifth centuries A.D. The Romans had a celebration of the harvest called the “Festival of Pomona,” or “Feralia,” which was observed on November 1st. Pomona, or Pomorum, was originally regarded as the goddess of orchards and harvest who fell in love with Vertumnus, the "god of the turning year" (or seasons); together they held sway over the harvest. Her celebration featured feasts of apples, nuts, grapes and other orchard fruit. People laid out apples and nuts for Pomona to thank her for a bountiful harvest. At the celebration there were games and races, and a time of thanksgiving and joy. Because these two festivals, Samhain and Feralia, were observed on the same day, November 1st, over time the practices of Samhain merged with those of the Festival of Pomona. Apples and nuts, games and romance became part of Halloween customs, along with the original concept of a night devoted to the dead, with ghoulish parades, divination, fire and spirit magic.
Christianity spread across the Roman Empire from the first through the fourth centuries A.D., but it did not fully eradicate longstanding pagan practices. The Emperor Constantine, who ruled from A.D. 306-337, officially declared Christianity to be the religion of the empire in A.D. 313; this caused thousands of pagans to became "instant Christians" through water baptism, without true conversion and the renunciation of their old ways. Pagans began to be instructed in Christian truth, but only a synchronism of religious thought was the result—pagan worship would not be eradicated. Samhain remained a primary pagan festival. Though Catholicism came to Britain through Saint Patrick and others in A.D. 300-400, the old Samhain traditions continued, especially in Ireland, and especially by the children. These would act out the Samhain appeasement of evil spirits by dressing-up as "spirits" and going house to house demanding a "treat;" if they were refused, they would perform a "trick" of punishment.
The Catholic Church, faced with such a situation, set about to assimilate pagan rites into the Church, using a version of the "if you can't beat 'em join 'em" philosophy. In A.D. 601 Pope Gregory I decreed that pagan temples should no longer be destroyed but be converted to places to worship God, and that pagan celebrations should be supplanted by religious festivals to God. Pope Boniface IV created "All Saint's Day" on May 13th, A.D. 610, as a memorial recognizing St. Mary and the Martyrs who had died for their faith. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III moved this festival to November 1st to honor the saints of St. Peter's Church (intentionally coinciding with Samhain). In A.D. 835, Pope Gregory IV extended this festival to include all saints so that it could be universally observed as "All Saint's Day" or "All Hallows" (or All Hallow's Day). Sundown on the eve before All Saint's Day (October 31st) marked the beginning of the celebration, called the Eve of All Saints, the Eve of All Hallows, or Hallow Even—this is where the name Hallowe'en comes from. It was celebrated much as it always had been: it was still regarded as a night of the wandering dead, and a time to leave food and drink for costumed revelers, and to light bonfires. Later, in the ninth century, Amalarius, in an attempt to satisfy the pagan desires of Samhain, set aside November 2nd to be "All Soul's Day" to honor the faithful dead. In A.D. 993, St. Odilo of Cluny requested that it become an official Catholic Church festival, and around 1,000 A.D. the feast day was approved by Pope Sylvester II.
The Church earnestly endeavored to transform Samhain; on All Saint's Day the people were encouraged to remember the dead with prayers instead of with sacrifices, and to bake "soul cakes" and go house to house to give to those who would agree to pray for the departed. Villagers were allowed to masquerade on this day, but only as Christian Saints. Throughout Europe and Britain churches displayed religious relics of patron saints or, in poor locales, held processions of costumed parishioners dressed as saints, angels, and demons (which satisfied the pagan practice of parading ghouls to the edge of town). The great bonfires, which had originally been to honor the sun-god of Samhain, were now said to be great torches to keep the Devil away. The wild and powerful spirits of that festival were now labeled as evil; the gods and goddesses of paganism were said to be demonic deceptions; and the malevolent spiritual force behind all idolatry was identified as Satan.
However, the Catholic Church's attempt to change Halloween failed. Instead of eliminating a pagan holiday, it only sanctioned and perpetuated it. Instead of ridding Europe of superstition and idolatry, it added to it with representations of ghosts and human skeletons, the devil, witches, black cats and other evil forces. Halloween had evolved once more, blending the symbols of Christianity with the earlier symbols of the festival of the dead.
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his doctrines of spiritual truth on the door of his church in Wittenberg, Germany; thus began the Protestant Reformation. As Europeans grasped the truth that man can have a personal relationship with the loving, true God through faith alone, many of the practices of Catholicism, including saint's days were abandoned. Without All Saint's Day there could be no All Hallows' Eve. But Halloween did not completely die; it was still observed in Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and some parts of western and northern England. And it reemerged among the Protestant English on November 5th, 1606, as “Guy Fawkes Day.” This holiday was instituted as a celebration of the triumph of Protestantism over Catholicism in England, on the anniversary of a foiled gunpowder plot which was to have blown up the predominantly Protestant House of Lords. The bomber, a fanatical Catholic named Guy Fawkes, was apprehended when he entered the building to set off his bomb, and was later executed. Guy Fawkes Day was marked by great bonfires and the burning of effigies of Guy Fawkes, by fireworks, masquerades, and the carrying of hollowed out and carved turnip lanterns. The eve of Guy Fawkes Day became known as "Mischief Night," when pranks were played.
At the time of the original colonization of America three types of Halloween celebrations existed in Europe: the pagan Samhain, the Catholic half-pagan half-Christian All Hallows Eve, and the secular Guy Fawkes Day of Protestant England. All three celebrations were carried to America by immigrants. By the time the former American colonies took their first census in 1790 there were 3,637,900 European expatriots in America. In Virginia the seeds of Halloween were planted by the Anglican Church, which observed "All Saint's Day," and observed Hallowmas (the feast of All Saint’s Day) as a boisterous festival of harvest, romance, spiritism and commerce. In Massachusetts, New York, and New Hampshire, Protestants enthusiastically observed Guy Fawkes Day, but Halloween was regarded as a pagan celebration of the spirit world. In Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, Anglicans celebrated Hallowmas; but Georgia (which comprised much of the South) was also influenced by the superstitions of African black voodoo and by English folktales from settlers. By the early 1800s Halloween rituals could be found across America only in the form of autumn play parties and private superstitions among the people.
But the birth of modern American Halloween observances can be traced to the mass immigrations of Irish Catholics in 1820 and 1846. These Irish, who had fled the potato famines in Ireland, spread westward across America seeking work as miners, mill workers, railroad construction hands, and domestic servants; everywhere they traveled they spread their blend of Irish Halloween customs, which stemmed from the Celtic “Samhain” and the Catholic “All Hallows.” These customs reinforced the latent American Halloween traditions (of the early settlers, of superstitious blacks, of superstitious American Indians) and added many more—costumes, trick or treating, carved pumpkin jack o' lanterns, bonfires, divination and witchcraft, and pranks against for those who were objectionable in some way. This Irish version of Halloween was celebrated with widespread popularity among the lower classes.
Upper and Middle class Victorians (1880s) in America somehow believed that Halloween was a holiday brought to America by the genteel of England (and they wanted to emulate all things English). They publicized it as such in children's and ladies' periodicals and as a holiday concerned with entertainments and games (not as a celebration of the dead nor dealing with witchcraft), which had its origins in Scotland or England, not Ireland. Halloween's original focus, communing with the dead, was not mentioned; instead, romantic fortune telling was the emphasis of Victorian Halloween fun. “Divination,” ghost stories, parlor games—such as bobbing for apples (fortune telling about marriage), jumping over candle sticks and the like—and matchmaking were the Halloween pastimes intended for Victorian adults, not for children. But in the early twentieth century a "harmless" celebration of Halloween became the domain of children, consisting of games such as scavenger hunts, races, ball games, games of skill, musical chairs, wheel of fortune games or a fortune-telling booth. However, among the lower classes Halloween underwent no such sanitizing.
Today Halloween is immensely popular among mainstream Americans. In the year 2003, fifty-six percent of all American households participated in Halloween activities. Sales of costumes, masks and other Halloween "stuff" is at an all-time high, totaling, in 2003, $1.5 billion dollars in sales. According to a 10/19/04 article from Knight Ridder Newspapers, quoted by the National Retail Federation, 50 million households will celebrate Halloween this year. Of that number, they estimate that at least 90% of families with children 12 and under will participate in the holiday. Adults too are showing a strong resurgence of interest in Halloween: roughly seventy percent (66%) of American adults will participate in some Halloween related activity, and they will each spend approximately $100 on the holiday. In fact, most of the money lavished on Halloween is spent by adults between the ages of 25 and 34. In a survey conducted in 2000, approximately one-quarter (23%) of adults planned to attend a party: nearly half (44%) of those aged 18-24 planned to go, and a little over one-third (34%) of those between the ages of 25-34 expected to attend parties. One-third of adults planned to dress in costume for the holiday: sixty-two percent (62%) of adults between the ages of eighteen to twenty-four planned to dress up, and forty-four (44%) percent of the 25-34 year olds planned to be costumed. And while the symbols of the dead are a puzzlement to these revelers, nevertheless, five of the eleven most popular costumes were witches, vampires, monsters, ghosts and angels.
Though most children and adults regard Halloween as innocent, though mysterious fun, and embrace the sanitized traditions associated with the holiday, the dual nature of Halloween is also evident in the reverence with which it is held by occult groups. On October 31st , the original, pagan, purpose of Halloween is still observed by Satanic cults, witch covens and Neo-pagans. Witches still regard it as one of the eight great festivals of paganism; and witches and Satanists hold that Halloween is the most powerful day of the year on which to cast a spell. The “Black Mass” of Satanic worship is held on October 31st. Practitioners of witchcraft, on Halloween, engage in the "drawing down the moon" ceremony in which the chief witch of the coven becomes a "channel" (actually becomes possessed) of the moon goddess. The participants of the ceremony, both men and women, are "sky-clad" (naked).
On Halloween ancient Druid sites, such as stone circles (like Stonehenge) or groves of oak trees, are the locations of occult gatherings. On Halloween animal sacrifices are openly offered in semi-pagan parts of the world like the Philippines and South America, and there is evidence that Neo-pagans in America are increasingly embracing the old ways; animal and, it is said, human sacrifices are made by Satanic and voodoo groups on Halloween. Other disturbing happenings are evident on Halloween: fires, that ancient symbol of pagan Halloween, are at an all-time high on October 31st in America; and the National Commission Against Drunk Driving says, “There is a higher percentage of alcohol related deaths on Halloween” than on any other day of the year.
III. It's Popularity
What accounts for the lasting popularity of Halloween? One reason has been mentioned before: adults see it as innocent fun for their children and as an opportunity for themselves to dress in costume and become childlike and carefree for one day each year. As James Lowry of the Miller College of Business observed, in September of 2004, “Adults want to relive that time when they would pretend to be a superhero or monster.” But a deeper reason may be man’s fascination with the supernatural. Death is a universal truth, and, generally speaking, all ancient peoples employed festivals that emphasized death and the supernatural. The Bible states that God has placed eternity in the hearts of men (ECC 3:11) so that they will long for the answers about death, life and the after-life. God has revealed Himself in creation: ROM 1:20 says, "God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made..." The Celts understood that supernatural power controlled creation. They wanted to have some sort of control over that power (this is the original temptation, "you shall be like God"(GEN 3:5)). They were greatly concerned with death and darkness because they lived mostly in northern Europe where the winters were as long as six months, and dark—they even called winter, “the season of death.” They wanted to be able to influence the gods of nature to be benevolent towards men; they wanted to control the power of death; and they wanted to know the future, and thus control the present. Their religion taught them that they could control their destinies if the right sacrifices were made. Conversely, if they failed to do what was required, they would bring upon themselves the capricious malevolence of these gods. As uncertain as it might have been, the people found security in this system, based upon their own endeavors. But the Scriptures are clear that they were deceived; "The god of this age [Satan] has blinded the minds of unbelievers" (2CO 4:4), "for although they knew God [through creation], they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles" (ROM 1:21-23).
Even the fact that they worshiped a sun-god—the Baal of Syro-Phoenicia and Canaan, God's "chosen land"—shows that they had access to the truth of the Scriptures; but they had not wanted God. And because they rejected the truth, God, "gave them up" (ROM 1) to be "slaves to those who by nature are not gods" (GAL 4:8). The festival of Samhain was a culmination of man's desire for power over creation, of fear, demonic teachings and witchcraft. It combined potent pagan elements—the promise of control over circumstances and death; the power to read the future; feasting, worship, and communal gathering; the excitement of bonfires, sacrifices, and masquerading; and evidence of Satanic power. These elements made Samhain attractive then and makes Halloween popular today, for those who do not know God or His power and providence.
Still another reason for today's extreme Halloween popularity is retail sales. Retailers call Halloween America's "second-biggest consumptive holiday, right behind Christmas." In 1996, when this article was first written, The Philadelphia Inquirer (who quoted Ad Age), stated that advertising for the 1996 Halloween season accounted for $170 million dollars, for products as diverse as McDonald's, Coors, FTD, Oreos, greeting cards, make-up, costumes, masks and decorations, with product manufacturers packaging special versions of their products (like orange filled Oreos) especially for Halloween. In 1996 the magazine, Selling Halloween, boasted that marketing has been, "taking a season that really didn't have a lot of product, and creating lines of product that will get the consumer into the store." The figures for 2001 show that modern marketing has orchestrated a success: Halloween was first in candy sales, at $2 billion dollars; costumes sales were at $1.5 billion dollars; home decorating supplies were the second largest of the year (after Christmas), at $586 million dollars; cards, pumpkins and party supplies brought in another $2.7 million dollars. Halloween means big business for retailers. The U S Commerce Dept. quoted Tom Holliday, the president of Retail Advertising and Marketing (RAMA), as saying in 2003, “More and more, we find retailers tying their marketing [for September and October] strategy to Halloween.” Halloween sales for the year 2004 are projected by economists to be upwards of $43.57 per family, for a total of a staggering $7 billion dollars. Other Halloween statistics are equally weighty: it's one of the three or four biggest snack food days of the year; it’s the third biggest party of the year, preceded only by Super Bowl Sunday, and New Year's Day; it’s the single biggest season for costume sales; it’s the 2nd biggest for party paper goods and plastic accessories and for home decorating; and it’s the 6th largest spending holiday of the entire year, coming behind the Winter Holidays, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. Obviously, since Halloween marketing is so successful, it will continue to be promoted without any moral considerations for as long as consumers will buy.
Ultimately, though, Halloween remains popular because of only one reason—its popularity is Satanically generated and energized. How is that? Halloween originated in paganism and has remained in the realm of the occult since its inception. There is an unbroken line from the past to today: Halloween never lost favor and came back into popularity at a later time in an innocent form. No, throughout its history the Halloween celebration has always been pagan in nature. It is the only American holiday celebrating the occult—communing with “spirits,” and even, if one pushes the literal, appeasing spirits. The power that has energized over 2,000 years of unbroken observance can only be supernatural. And since the Bible says that God (“Yahweh,” or Jehovah: ISA 45:5, 6) is good and holy and “will not give His glory to another” (ISA 42:8), the supernatural power behind such a celebration, such worship, is Satan, who is the “prince of this world” (JOH 12:31), and the author of “spiritual forces of wickedness” (EPH 6:12). The Bible makes it clear that any worship not given to God is given to demons, or “fallen angels,” of whom Satan is chief (1Co 10:20; MAT 25:41). Halloween is the only day when Satan, the originator of the occult, receives glory from a vast horde of mankind, whether knowingly or unknowingly. And Satan wants worship and glory. The Scriptures teach that the desire to be exalted, "to be like God," was what caused Satan to be cast out of heaven (ISA 14:14). Worship is what Satan tried to tempt Jesus Christ to give him while Jesus wandered for forty days in the Judean desert after His baptism (MAT 4:9; LUK 4:7). Bible prophecy indicates that until the very end of time he will still be working to deceive mankind into worshiping him (REV 13:4). At that time there will be great demonic activity and sorcery among mankind (REV 9:21). It’s no coincidence that interest in the “black arts” and the occult is rising at the same time that Halloween is growing more important in the hearts and minds of Americans. It’s no accident that Madison Avenue is pushing Halloween, and that more money is spent on Halloween and more people participate in it than ever before. It is no surprise that more adults are embracing Halloween now than at any other time in modern history.
We can expect to see the fascination with the occult, sorcery, witchcraft and other Satanic activities, continue to gain in popularity. Halloween, that ancient occultic holy day, will grow ever more important until it eclipses every other holiday, including Christmas, as Satan seeks to exalt himself on this earth before he is forever judged for his wickedness.
IV. A Christian Response to Halloween
A. Do not observe it
If you participate in Halloween you really become a part of a pagan celebration. The Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote, in 1CO 10:20 "... the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons." Halloween originated as a pagan worship festival. The basic elements of spiritism and witchcraft have remained the same throughout its history. Paul went on to say, "You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons" (1CO 10:21). Christians belong to God and partake of God; they are holy unto God. To involve themselves in Halloween or any other pagan worship is to partake of idolatry. Again Paul wrote in Ephesians, "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them" (EPH 5:11). He could not have used stronger language in his admonition: have nothing to do with the deeds of darkness. We are not to celebrate with idolaters and demon worshipers: we are to let the light of God's holiness shine on such practices and expose them for what they are.
Some may say that Halloween is OK because the pagan elements have been taken out of it. To that a reply may be made that paganism has not been taken out of it. Our Halloween is very similar to the original; all of the original symbols of Samhain, Pomona, and the Middle Ages are still employed in our Halloween celebration—dressing in costumes of spirits, ghosts and ghouls, witchcraft, spiritism, Satanic power, bonfire burning, parading, feasting on treats, “trick or treating,” merrymaking at parties—these are unchanged. And Halloween is still listed as one of witchcraft's great festivals. It is still the night on which the Satanic Black Mass is held and sacrifices are made. Witches still practice black and the co-called “white magic” on this night (but God recognizes all magic as evil). In Deuteronomy God said, "Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead" (DEU 18:10,11); yet, Halloween was and is an instrument of mediums and witches. But there is more to this issue than just the celebration itself. Jesus said, speaking to those who opposed God, "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies (JOH 8:44). Paul wrote in EPH 6:12, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." So, not only is Halloween pagan, it is a vehicle that exalts the spiritual forces of evil. It is a trick to make Christians and unbelievers honor what is wicked and evil. This we must not do in any way.
Christians may argue that Paul said "everything is permissible" for a Christian (1CO 10:23). They may quote Paul from 1Corinthians 8:4, when he said, "So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: 'We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one,'" meaning, that they can participate in Halloween because the idolatrous overtones are meaningless. But God judged King Solomon as an idolater for building temples for his pagan, foreign wives and for entering the temples with them, even though they served “gods” that were not gods at all. Scripture says that they turned his heart away from the Living God. As a result, paganism spread throughout Israel and the kingdom was torn from his family's hands in his son, Rehaboam's rule. Our God is a jealous God. In Exodus 20:5 He said, "I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me." Perhaps we need to be reminded that what seems innocent to us may be an abomination to God, and that He will not tolerate any form of idolatry from His children. Paul continued in 1CO 10:22, "Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy? Are we stronger than he?" God will judge us if we wantonly provoke His jealousy.
Paul went on to say in 1CO 10:23 that while, "Everything is permissible" in the ultimate sense, "but not everything is constructive." The book of Hebrews says that there are things that hinder our Christian growth, and, "Therefore... let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (HEB 12:1).
Observing this pagan festival does not enhance our relationship to God, and it can entangle us in sorcery and witchcraft. But even if there was no basis for saying that Halloween is pagan, the principles of PHI 4:8 preclude our participation, as Paul reminds us: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." What is noble about going door to door begging candy? What is praiseworthy about masquerading as ghosts, goblins, witches or even innocuous fantasy figures? And how does Halloween reflect what is true, admirable or excellent?
Some Christians say that they don't believe in celebrating Halloween but that they use it as an opportunity to hand out gospel pamphlets and tracts, along with candy, to “trick or treaters.” When we hand out candy, aren't we really participating in Halloween?
Many argue that it’s necessary to include a candy treat with the gospel tracts in order to make them acceptable, but “trick or treaters” are looking for treats, not tracts. In MAT 7:6 we read, "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces." Children and adults are not looking for the Gospel on Halloween; it is not a night of true spiritual thirst. The majority of tracts are probably thrown away without being read at all; and not only may they be wasted, but when we push spiritual truth on those who don't want it, we may subject the good news about Jesus Christ to ridicule and mockery. Why not save our precious truth for a more appropriate time, when people are truly receptive?
B. Find an Alternative
As Christians we have options that we can exercise about Halloween. We don't have to do what the rest of the world does. Remember Ephesians 5:11: “Have nothing to do with the deeds of darkness…”
1. Celebrate a festival on another day, such as a harvest festival in November.
2. Hold a Bible study on the occult and Halloween witchcraft.
3. Hold a prayer or praise meeting on Halloween.
4. Go somewhere that doesn't involve Halloween celebrations.
5. Don’t give out candy to strangers; but, rather, make it a family activity night.
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James Lowry, Miller College of Business, 9/22/04, email@example.com
National Retail Federation Report, Oct. 2004, http://buffalonews.com
Retail Sales: US Commerce Dept. Report, Oct. 2003, http://retailindustry.about.com
Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary, William Collins + World Publishing Co., Inc., 1970, pg. 207
“Web of Popularity,” by Beth Turner, Oct. 21, 2004, Parents.com
Witches, Pumpkins and Grinning Ghosts, the Story of Halloween Symbols,
by Edna Barth, Seabury Press, New York, 1972