It seems that Halloween has its roots with the Celtic druids of France, Great Britain and Ireland. The druids were the priests of their society and officiated at Samhain (pronounced “sah” “win”). This holiday on October 31st was the last day of their year with their New Year beginning on November 1st. This was the end of their harvest season and the beginning of their winter. It was believed that this was the day of the year where the spirits of the dead could re-enter the domain of the living. It seemed to be a time of celebration but of fear as well. People would darken their homes, put food outside the door to appease the spirits and to prevent them from doing mischief to their house. A bonfire was also made and the remnants of the fire taken back to their homes in carved out turnips or gourds to relight their fireplace. This may be the genesis of the Jack-o-lantern. To also confuse the spirits and protect themselves they would change their dress – even men dressing as women and vice versa. Our dressing in costumes is likely the remnants of this practice. Some think the bonfire would attract insects which would then attract bats and is how bats became associated with our Halloween. Some believed that fairies were about and giving gifts of food would appease them and cause them to not be mischievous toward them.
There were also animal as well as human sacrifices made. Some say it was the weak animals that were sacrificed because they would not likely make it through a harsh winter. However, that would not explain the human sacrifices; there is also some evidence that the human sacrifices may have been voluntary. This would indicate that this was part of some type of worship practice. Others feel that these practices go all the way back to the time of Nimrod where most of the idol worship originated. From this time came Baal worship and Molech worship which involved human sacrifice (Lv 18:21; 2Ki 23:10; Jr 32:35). Therefore Samhain may have been some type of a later version of these forms of worship.
When Rome conquered the Celts in the first century, other practices became intertwined with the Celtic Samhain celebration. Rome had two celebrations in late October: Feralia (which was a day to honor the dead) and a festival for Pomona, the goddess of trees and fruit. Pomona’s symbol was the apple. Therefore, it is likely that bobbing for apples came from the incorporation of the festival for Pamona and Samhain.
In the late 1st century, the Catholic Church moved All Saints Day, a day to recognize all the deceased saints and martyrs, from May 13th to November 1st as a way to change the pagan holiday into a religious holiday. This day became known as All Hallows or Hallowmas, and so October 31st became known as All Hallows Eve and later to Halloween (a shortened form of evening is e’en). Then at the beginning of the 2nd century November 2nd was made All Souls Days to honor everyone who had died. The poor in England starting going door to door on All Souls Day to ask for food handouts. They were given “soul cakes” which were pastries given in exchange for the person to promise to pray for their dead loved ones. It became common for children to participate in this practice. Going from door to door and the idea of mischievous fairies being appeased with gifts of food was likely combined to form our present day trick-or-treating.
When Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation, All Hallows was not celebrated since it was believed that all Christians were saints. However, most people still celebrated many of the practices associated with this holiday.
In early America, Halloween was not celebrated and the Puritans refused to celebrate such a pagan holiday. However, in the early 1800’s there was a large influx of Irish due to the potato famine. Most of these were of Catholic origin and the celebration of Halloween started to be practiced and became very popular. Over time the practices that we know today were developed. Due to its prevalence, the pumpkin replaced the more typical gourd. By the 20th century, Halloween was commercialized and today has reached a popularity that is almost equivalent to that of Christmas. It has reached the status of the second largest commercial holiday with almost $7 billion spent annually on candy, costumes, and party supplies.
So, back to our original question: should a Christian celebrate Halloween? There is one spectrum of thought that one should not because it has such a dark, Satanic origin. Then, there are those that say that since Halloween today has no resemblance to its origin and is all about kids having fun, so why not? Personally, our family does not celebrate Halloween. It not because I feel it is wrong to do so but I just don’t like what it represents or its history. I feel that the holiday still celebrates some of the gruesome aspects along with the sweet and innocent, and I just don’t like that aspect. We do have to understand that there are those who use this holiday to celebrate its dark roots and even Satan himself. This is also the time of year that more and more gruesome horror films are created and shown. Haunted houses, while many consider fun, celebrate this gruesome aspect and try to make it fun. I personally have an issue with that and even the concept of trick-or-treat seems wrong to me. Are you really going to pull a trick on someone who does not give you candy? Maybe I’m just being too literal here. Also, it scares me to have to be so concerned these days about the candy the kids receive. I prefer to do something safer under closer control. I just feel that are too many negatives with this holiday for me and my family to enjoy it in the way that most do today.
However, I have no problem or bad feeling against those who decide to celebrate Halloween. I think this falls into the category of Christian liberty. It boils down to why you are celebrating the holiday. If you celebrate it as a fun time for children and only focus on the positive aspects, then go ahead. That being said, if it is for children, then once you are old enough that you no longer need an adult with you to go about trick-or-treating, then I personally believe you are too old to continue to do so. It is then time for some more age-appropriate entertainment. There are many positive ways to celebrate this holiday for teens and adults.
There is a lot that is negative about this holiday, but there are positives also. Find positives things you can do with your family and have fun with your family. Make it a time of being together – ever how you decide to do so. However, when your children are old enough, explain to them the history of the holiday and help them to put this holiday in a proper perspective. It is always better to know what you are celebrating (as well as what you are not celebrating) and why.
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