The Heart of Halloween and the Christian Faith
I love to celebrate anytime I get a chance. I’m very, very celebratory when it comes to birthdays, special events, and holidays. I don’t believe I’m alone in that statement. We all need to celebrate, and I believe we look for opportunities whenever they are available. However, we need to be more aware of what we are truly celebrating and why. And Halloween is a perfect example.
I grew up celebrating Halloween as a kid like many others. It was a holiday filled with suspense, mystery, and an opportunity to be something or someone else. I loved the crisp nights outside with friends visiting our neighbors door to door and eating candy for weeks on end. But I’ll be honest, what I didn’t like was the horror and the demonic backdrop that Halloween represented. I was never fond of that, and it made me uncomfortable.
I don’t believe I’m alone in that statement. So why do Christians all around the world celebrate it?
Halloween originated approximately three thousand years ago with the Celtic holiday known as Samhain (pronounced Sow’ win) when those who died that year prior would come back to visit the living, roaming the earth freely. Samhain was traditionally celebrated on the first of November, between the summer and Winter solstice. The eve prior to Samhain, people would eagerly prepare for these ghoulish visitations by dressing up in an attempt to masquerade as fellow ghosts, thus being unrecognizable. They would also leave food on their doorstep to pacify the dead in the hope they would not stay to haunt them. It is from this practice that “trick or treat” evolved.
It was believed that during this time of year the entrance into the “other world” was very thin, which was recognized by the shortening of daylight before Winter. This was something the Celts and Druids believed only the gods of the sun could perform. The Celts understood the sun to give life to all things. Therefore, during this period of time those gods were appeased and worshiped through blood sacrifices.
These blood sacrifices were offered during Samhain to give back to the earth part of their living, since the earth had yielded her bounty to them. It was considered a polite exchange. Animals of many kinds, including horses (which were highly valued), were tied and burned at the stake upon blazing campfires. Afterward, their entrails were read by diviners and Druid priests to see who would live or die that next year.
Samhain is still celebrated today by modern Druids of Ireland. This is a solemn holiday which determines whether an individual may live or die that next year. If the gods are appeased, and the sacrifice offered are accepted, the individual may live.
In the eighth century, after St. Patrick had evangelized Ireland, the Church renamed the holiday as All Hallows Eve, also known as All Saints Day, which today has become what we know to be Halloween. The word “hallow” means “holy”. Therefore, much of the celebration was done to remember and revere the dead of those who had died that year. Christians would visit graveyards to pray for the dead and place gifts such as flowers, food, and other items to show their love and reverence. Today there are many Christians who celebrate All Hallows Eve or All Saints Day in this manner.
Statistics show that Halloween is now the second largest holiday to be celebrated in the US, averaging a gross of 8 billion dollars annually in party items, costumes, and candy.
Christians of many denominations go out to parties and dress up much like I did as a child. But instead of going door to door at night, they frequent public events held by churches and other organizations. Many workplaces celebrate Halloween by allowing children to visit in their costumes and offering them an opportunity to “treat”.
On the flip side, Halloween is also celebrated among those in the world through horror movies, a glorification of gore, and an opportunity to pull pranks. Satanic worship is even performed with rituals of blood sacrifice.
The Holy Season of Harvest
With regard to this time of year, it is indeed holy. It is during the months of September and October, that the Highest Holiest days of the year are celebrated among God’s chosen people, Israel. This is when the new year begins with Rosh Hashanah, which is followed by the ten Days of Awe, whereby people prepare for the judgment rendered on Yom Kippur, which is the highest and holiest day of the entire year. This sacred day historically determines whether or not you will have a prosperous year, and whether your name was written in the book of life. The last holy feast is Sukkot, which lasts 8 days total, and is the most joyous holiday of the entire year.
I almost find it amusing that some of the ancient rituals and beliefs in Halloween are mirrored within God’s holy feasts during the same time of year:
1.) There is a time of reckoning for the life we lived the year prior during the ten Days of Awe (Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur).
2.) We are given time to repent and turn to God.
3.) We are weighed in His divine balance in preparation for judgment in the year ahead.
4.) He will determine whether or not our names are written in the Book of Life.
5.) There were blood sacrifices offered for sin, a requirement Christ has fulfilled for all mankind.
6.) Whether or not we have a prosperous year is determined by His judgment.
These are only a few of the highlights of traditional Jewish custom, ritual and beliefs that are based upon biblical truths outlined in God’s Law. Now that Christ has come, he has overcome and conquered sin, death, hell, the grave, and the entire fallen world (see books Ephesians & Galatians). He has fulfilled each feast in his Person, offering salvation to all who believe, accomplishing what we could not. He gave His life for us as a ransom for sin as the atoning sacrifice God requires (see Hebrews 1-13). He is our salvation, and there is no other name given under heaven whereby men must be saved. Jesus Christ has fulfilled both the Law and Prophets. He has given us one command: to love God and each other as He loved us. That love was demonstrated in a life of humble yet powerful servitude and sacrifice (see 1 John 1-5). To all who believe on Him and receive His gift of salvation – death no longer has any power over them (see Romans 6-8)
ALL WHO BELIEVE ON JESUS CHRIST RECEIVE ETERNAL LIFE.
What I see happening as evidenced in the evolution and celebration of Halloween is very clear, and it’s been this way since the beginning of time: The enemy will always attempt to counterfeit the truth with lies; the good with evil; and life-giving freedom with fear of death.
The Blessing and the Curse
The heart of Halloween is clear in its origin and purpose. As Christians we have an obligation to serve Christ in all that we do, glorifying Him through our thoughts, actions, words, and lifestyle. Although that is not always easy, there are choices we can deliberately and consciously make toward God, for which we will be held accountable to Him, especially once we know the truth.
God has much to say about these ancient rituals and beliefs associated with Halloween, which include sorcery, idol worship, divination, and all manner of witchcraft:
There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times [fortune-teller], or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee. Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God, (Deuteronomy 18:10-13, KJV, emphasis mine).
He makes it clear in His Word that these practices are an abomination to Him. For the remainder of this post, this principle will be central to understanding our obedience to God with regard to what God has clearly outlined above. Let it be known that when God calls something an abomination, that it is not the same as sin. Sin is inherent in our carnal fleshly nature (iniquity), which passed through Adam, and we sin in many ways we are not even aware. Sin in itself, is a term that can encompass many types of spiritual and moral wrongdoing, error, and transgression. Only God can reveal our sins to us by His Spirit, thereby granting us the opportunity to repent and be free.
An abomination, by God’s definition, is something strictly condemned that brings a swift judgment and curse from God. These curses are outlined in Deuteronomy chapter 28. If you’re wondering how this can be, there are three prominent examples in scripture that I’d like to outline:
1.) King Saul (1 & 2 Samuel)
2.) Judas Iscariot – prophesied as the son of perdition (Gospel accounts)
3.) Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11)
I’m going to take the time here to elaborate upon a scriptural example of what the curse looks like and how it operates. King Saul is one of the finest examples, simply because his story is so clearly rendered in scripture. His story is found in the books of 1 & 2 Samuel. He very deliberately committed disobedient acts in God’s name which caused God to reject him as his chosen king over Israel. God called his disobedience “witchcraft” because Saul’s heart was motivated by rebellion. Rebellion can only happen when you know to do right and deliberately choose wrong. Therefore, Saul was guilty as charged. Although he knew and understood the clear command of God, he blatantly rejected it. Therefore, God rejected Saul. In doing so He took the anointing of His Spirit from him, and in return He released an “evil spirit” which tormented him and drove him mad until the day of his death.
In 1 Samuel 15 Saul was commanded by God to completely destroy the Amelekites for the evil king Amelek had done to Israel. God made it clear to spare nothing. But Saul listened to the people and took the richest spoil. He even spared Agag, the king of the Amelekites. Let’s take a look at how God responded:
Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying, It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night. And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD. And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear? And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amelekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed. Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the LORD? And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king (1 Samuel 15:10-11, 13-15, 19, 22-23, KJV).
And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill thy horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons. Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah. But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him, (1 Samuel 16:1 & 13-14, KJV).
If you are interested, I encourage you to read the entire story. As the story goes, Saul eventually went completely insane. He was hysterical, pursuing David for years unjustly in an attempt to kill him. Saul became so enraged with jealousy that he murdered God’s holy priests when they did not reveal David’s whereabouts, and slew anyone who spoke against him, and Samuel even feared for his life (see 1 Samuel 16:2). Saul became one of the most evil tyrants ever known, and when Samuel died, Saul went so far as to consult a witch to speak with him in raising him from his place of rest. The evil spirit from the LORD drove Saul against God and His will. This is the principle of the curse which is defined for us in the New Testament by the Apostle Paul:
And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the LORD shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12, KJV).
This curse is very real, and yes, it does operate under the new covenant for those who (again) deliberately rebel and reject the truth. As a result of this curse Saul died a cruel death. Saul’s story (as well as the others outlined) is a clear example of how witchcraft, and the curse that accompanies it, can operate in the life of a believer, even as one chosen by God.
Motivated by Love
Obedience to God should always be motivated by love. When it’s not, we become subject to temptations that can sway our motives such as with Saul who desired the greatest spoil, Judas who desired money and prominence, and Ananias and Sapphira who desired personal gain at the expense of the Church. All of these knew the will of God, yet deliberately plotted and rebelled against it. They each made willful decisions, and in doing so, chose the curse instead of the blessing. Each of them died without repentance. That is a severe and harsh reality the Church has yet to embrace. The Church has long played with God’s grace and mercy, treating it lightly. And although God is certainly rich in grace and mercy, calling us to walk in it richly toward others, we cannot diminish sin and its consequences or effects upon us spiritually. That is a very, very dangerous game to play.
I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them, (Deuteronomy 30:19-20, KJV, emphasis mine).
These are strong words, and we must receive them as intended. God maintains the sovereign right to bless and curse. He places before us life and death; blessing and cursing. We get to choose, and He begs us to choose life. As a loving Father, He shows us how to do that, making His word and ways clear to us. If we don’t listen or obey, then we are responsible.
The ritual practices of Halloween, by God’s definition, are abominable. With all that has been said, we don’t see God using this term very often, so when He does, we need to pay strict attention.
The Motives of Our Hearts
You may wonder where I stand, and I’m happy to share with you.
I made a personal decision a long time ago that I would not participate in Halloween, or celebrate it. It simply does not exist in my world. Instead, I celebrate Harvest with my local church. That is not to say that I condemn a cute costume, so long as it is pure and good. I enjoy celebrating Harvest at church and playing games with the kids and families there. It’s a healthy time to have fun, fellowship, and get a good sugar high! With that said, it provides a safe alternative for children in the community to discover God, be touched by His people, and have good clean fun that does NOT revolve around Halloween. We are revealing to them an alternative in showing them how to celebrate what God celebrates. We’re showing them how to choose life. The kids are blessed and safe, the LORD is glorified, and all is well and good. These are good, clean, pure and healthy community festivities, and this is an opportune time to reach people who may otherwise be in darkness. I believe that as God’s people, we need to be the LIGHT in the midst of darkness. It’s not enough to ban Halloween and sit at home and suck our thumbs while the darkness is being celebrated. We are to be the LIGHT! So let’s move in a positive direction, in the power of His Spirit, and do something for God!
God does not merely look at what we do in making His judgments. To do so is unjust, and that is why He calls us to judge with righteous judgment with lots of mercy! So no, He does not just look at what we do. He also looks at why we do it. And in doing that, He carefully weighs the motives of our hearts as He closely examines us. Morally and ethically, we can do many wrong things for the right reasons and with good intentions, being entirely ignorant of what we’re really effecting. I believe participating in Halloween falls into this category for most believers.
We can find many reasons to celebrate anything at any given time if we want to. So with that said, I’d like to awaken the Church to what is really going on. It may be ignorance, or a refusal to recognize it. Regardless, the end outcome is the same. We very much like to form our sphere of safety by creating bubbles that insulate us – and sadly, many times we insulate ourselves so well that we are no longer able to accurately recognize the truth or accurately discern what is happening around us.
Now that we understand Halloween in the context of God’s holy word, I believe God is wanting to examine our motives and bring some enlightenment. I am compelled by the LORD to propose this question: Do you celebrate Halloween? Why? And in what capacity or manner do you celebrate it?
Is it just about dressing up and eating candy? If so, is that being done in the right context? Or is it about becoming a part of something more that our culture has embraced, yet God condemns as an abomination? Is your celebration pure? And does it glorify God?
WHERE IS YOUR HEART THIS HALLOWEEN?
What are you celebrating and why?
Only you can answer these questions. My hope is that is this post will give you the information you need to make a wise, educated and intelligent answer toward God and any children of your own or those around you.
This season of Harvest is indeed a sacred time of year unto the LORD. It is very holy (or hallowed), and for clear reasons which God has shown us. Whatever you choose to celebrate, I pray you make the right decision this holiday. And may your personal decision truly glorify God and bless others.
God bless you, and Happy Harvest!
Cheers & Shalom,