In mid-September, bags Halloween candies begin to line the shelves of grocery stores, even though it is at least six weeks before the occasion. These snack-sized treats are hard to ignore. What could be wrong with a day when children get to dress up in funny or scary costumes and collect candy from the neighbors? Maybe nothing. There are differing opinions.
Do Christ followers observe the Halloween tradition? There may be as many views to this question as there are churches in your town. Convictions range from strict avoidance, to church or school sponsored Harvest Festivals, to traditional Trick or Treating. There may be guidelines in your church or you may have a heartfelt opinion about the occasion.
I did a bit of research into the origin of the Halloween. Much of the information contained here is from the Encarta Encyclopedia.
Halloween began as an Ancient Pagan Holiday.
Many ancient societies in Europe celebrated the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter. Probably the strongest influence on later Halloween customs was Samhain, a holiday observed by the ancient Celts. Samhain began at sundown on October 31st and extended into the following day. The Celtic pagan religion, called Druidism, believed that the spirits of those who had died in the preceding year roamed the earth on Samhain evening. In order to ward off these spirits, the Celts prepared offerings of food and drink, built bonfires and performed rituals at sacred sites. These rituals are said to have involved animal and human sacrifices performed to honor Druid gods.
As the Roman Empire conquered the Celtic land and began incorporating the people into their empire, they also absorbed some of the Celtic traditions into their own Roman religious observances.
The Roman Catholic Church often adopted versions of older traditions in order to win converts to the church. Pope Gregory IV replaced Samhain with All Saints Day in the year 835. In 998, All Souls Day, closer to the spirit of Samhain and modern Halloween, was instituted at a French monastery. This then began to spread throughout Europe and preserved many of the ancient Celtic customs associated with Samhain.
Between the 15th and 17th centuries, Europe developed a hysterical fear of witches, leading to the persecution of thousands of innocent women. Witches were thought to ride flying brooms and to transform themselves into black cats. We see these images now as symbols of Halloween.
Halloween Comes To North America:
New England was initially settled by English Puritans, a strict Protestant sect that rejected Halloween in both its Catholic and pagan forms. However, soon other British colonists brought Halloween traditions to the southern colonies including Virginia and Maryland. The tradition had spread throughout the United States by the mid-nineteenth century. By that time, it was becoming increasingly regarded as a children's holiday.
Young people often observed Halloween by indulging in minor acts of vandalism, such as breaking windows and overturning sheds. In the 1930s this was transformed into the ritual of trick-or-treating and vandalism was becoming a rare occurrence. However, in some areas, the tradition has become increasingly dangerous as it involves more than harmless pranks, such as Mischief Night, of Devil's Night in Detroit. In the 1970s and 80s waves of arson sometimes destroyed entire city blocks.
Since the 1970s Halloween celebrations have become adult party nights.
Knowing the origin of the tradition is important. Knowing God's word on the subject is more important. Is it okay to condone vandalism in the name of child’s play? Do we really believe that the souls of the dead roam the earth on that one day every year? If we pretend and play at Halloween, will we cause someone else to stumble? The question of to celebrate or not comes down to personal belief and conviction.
See Page Two.
See also: Satan - Who is He?
Magic, Divination and Witchcraft