I remember as a little girl trying to peer through tiny holes that had been cut into a small, white sheet and tripping through our cold, dark neighborhood in hopes of filling my bag with candy. I remember keeping a watchful eye on a very, scary witch who was standing in her doorway handing out candy and hoping that we would not end up on her darkened porch. I remember hearing electronic screams throughout the neighborhood and being glad when we were finally home.
So, what’s wrong with that? It’s become part of the fabric of our American traditions. (And by the way, Halloween is also celebrated in several other countries around the world.)
But, once we surrender to Christ, I think we can sometimes forget to go back and ask ourselves, and even more importantly, the Lord, if some things we’ve become accustomed to are things that we should still be doing. We keep practicing them because we see others do them and we don’t see the harm. But now that we are The Called of God for His purposes, He has created us to be a separate people unto Him.
We have been called to come out of the world and its darkness and join the city of believers that casts the light of God brightly into the world. And that means casting off the things that would darken His light in our lives. And we may not even realize that some things, like Halloween, may be part of that darkness.
I’ll give you a brief overview of the origins of Halloween and some of the traditions associated with it.
Halloween’s origins began at approximately the time of the birth of Christ with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (sow-in) in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and the northern part of France. Samhain was celebrated on the night of October 31, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth to play tricks on people. To appease the dead, the Druids would visit homes and the people would give them offerings of food. During the celebration of Samhain, the Celtic priests, or Druids, built huge, sacred bonfires and the Druids would disguise themselves by wearing animal-head masks and animal-skin costumes and jumping through the flames. The people from the surrounding villages would gather around the bonfires (which comes from the words “bone” and “fire”) to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to appease the Celtic deities and so that these deities would enable the priests to use divination to make predictions about the future.
In the 800’s, Christian religion had spread over this area and Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 as All Saints’ Day, which would honor saints and martyrs. This celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas. The night before this celebration, October 31, was known as All-hallows Eve, and eventually became known as Halloween. November 2 later became known as All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead by building bonfires, having parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils.
European immigrants began coming to America and bringing their Halloween traditions with them. The celebrations were in limited sections of America and began as parties to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, tell ghost stories and cause destruction.
Later, Halloween celebrations spread across America and people began to borrow from the old European traditions by dressing up in costumes and go from house to house asking for food or money. It was also believed that young women, on Halloween, could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple pairings or mirrors.
Trick-or-treating probably evolved from the Samhain traditions to those in Ireland of going door-to-door begging for soul cakes in exchange for promises of prosperity or protection against bad luck.
Carving Jack-O-Lanterns originated from a myth about a man named Stingy Jack who invited the devil to have a drink with him. Jack tricked the devil into turning himself into a coin to pay for the drinks, and then he tricked him once again before he died. God wouldn’t let Jack into heaven, and the devil was angry with Jack and wouldn’t let him into hell, so he sent Jack out with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with it ever since. The carving of turnips to scare away Jack began in Scotland and Ireland, and then eventually the tradition transformed into carving pumpkins here in America.
Today, of course, Halloween has become synonymous with horror films, blood, death, witches, ghosts, haunted houses and evil. Darkness.
“But,” you say, “I don’t do any of those things. We just dress up in cute costumes and walk around the neighborhood getting candy.”
I don’t want to be your Holy Spirit. But I am encouraging you to allow the Holy Spirit to be your Holy Spirit. Ask Him if this is something that is honoring and glorifying to Him or is it participating in a celebration that is glorifying His enemy?
Because the reality is, we don’t see the spiritual warfare that goes on that night, or any night for that matter. But it is a celebration that is steeped in pagan worship, in divination, and in sacrifice in order to appease demons. We may not take it seriously, but I bet the enemy of God does, and I believe he’ll use any opportunity to worm his way into the lives of people.
And yes, I know the Lord may choose to use you in a way on this night that truly is glorifying Him, and that's wonderful, too.
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:5-7