A History of the Holiday
The Celts started the holiday 2,000 years ago, calling it Samhain (pronounced: “Sow-in”). The Celts celebrated the New Year on November 1 and believed that the night before was a transitional period from a time of harvest, light and warmth (summer/fall) into a period of death, darkness and cold (winter). They believed that the spiritual and physical realms overlapped during that night and that spirits could then walk the earth. They put on scary masks and lit bonfires to scare away evil spirits. To guide the spirits of their dead relatives home, they put candles in their windows.
In 43 A.D. the Romans conquered the Celts, and Samhain became combined with two Roman holidays. The first holiday, Feralia, was a day to honor the dead, and the other was to celebrate Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees (some think this is where “bobbing for apples” comes from).
By the seventh century, Pope Boniface the IV declared November 1 as “All Saints Day” or “All Hallows.” This is why October 31 is called “All Hallows Eve” or “Halloween.” By the year 1000 they had big parades for “All Hallows” where they would dress up as saints, angels and devils.
In England, poor people would go door to door around this time to ask for food. They were given what were called “soul cakes.” Over time that evolved to kids dressed as Batman coming to your door and saying, “Trick or Treat,” which originally meant “Give me a treat or I’ll play a trick on you.”
So, since there are both pagan and Christian elements in Halloween, should we celebrate it?
A Biblical Example to Consider
Paul gives us an answer in 1 Corinthians 8:4-13. In Paul’s day, people would offer sacrifices to idols and then sell the meat in the marketplace or eat it in the temple. Some Christians opposed this practice under the following line of reasoning:
- There is no God but Yahweh.
- Since there can be no other gods, sacrifices made to any “god” other than Yahweh must be made to demons.
- We should not have anything to do with demons.
Paul agrees with this logic and does not want Christians eating idol meat in the pagan temples because he doesn’t want them associating themselves with demons. However, he does allow meat sold in the marketplace to be eaten, even though it was offered to demons. How can that be? Shouldn’t we stay away from this meat since it started out as pagan sacrifice? How can Paul allow Christians to eat meat sacrificed to demons?
Paul’s answer: Because good things belong to God and can be redeemed for His glory.
There is no demon meat – just meat that can be eaten in celebration of Jesus. Jesus made meat, and it is a good gift. Don’t get rid of the meat. Rather, get rid of its demonic association and redeem the meat for Jesus.
The same principle applies to Halloween. Jesus created joy. Jesus created celebratory events. Jesus created laughter. Those things should be redeemed and used for Jesus. Now, there are obvious things you don’t want to take part in or that are sinfully beyond redemption. Dressing up inappropriately, taking part in anything demonic (Ouija boards, séances, etc.) and sexual, drunken debauchery would all be wrong.
But to simply laugh with friends, dress up and eat candy is not wrong. However, don’t violate your conscience. If you are uncomfortable with taking part in Halloween, then feel free to abstain. God doesn’t want you to do something you cannot do in faith (Rom. 14:23), but don’t judge those who do participate out of a good conscience. Although you “can” celebrate Halloween, it doesn’t mean that you necessarily “should” or “have to.” Allow the Lord to lead Christians in their own consciences regarding this holiday.