Christians in the western world have been debating this very topic on whether or not the Bible approves of this holiday for a long time. Of course, there are the “ultra conservatives” who would say it’s evil and pagan and that followers of God should never celebrate a day like this. Then there are others who say they have freedom in Christ, and that it doesn’t matter so long as you don’t celebrate for the wrong reasons. But what does the Bible have to say on this topic? Is Halloween really an evil holiday? Or can we participate so long as we don’t dress up like demons? Since it is one of the most popular holidays of the year, questions such as these are important to answer if we are desiring to follow God.
WHAT IS THE MEANING BEHIND HALLOWEEN?
It all goes back to the Celtic festival called “Samhain” about 2000 years ago, being celebrated as the end of harvest, on November 1. It was believed that on the night before this festival, that the dead would return as ghostly figures, and the townsfolk would even leave food on their doorsteps in order to appease them. The villagers would often disguise themselves with masks so that they would be mistaken as ghosts by the other dead people. Later on, the Church changed the festival of Samhain into “All Saints Day” and “All Hallows” somewhere in the 8th century. The night before the festival of Samhain was then appropriately called “All Hallows Eve”, and then later shortened to “Halloween.” “Souling” and “guising” was practiced in medieval Britain on November 2, “All Souls Day,” where people would ask for soul cakes and in return, they would pray for the dead. People would also dress up and accept gifts from others in the form of money, food, trinkets or anything else in exchange for their talents such as singing and dancing. In the 19th century, Irish immigrants in America decided to bring this holiday, along with its traditions, with them. Trick or treating was then born, resulting in the holiday now being celebrated today.
WHAT ARE THE SYMBOLS IN HALLOWEEN?
Jack O’Lanterns: Legend has it that a drunk Irishman named “Stingy Jack” pranked both God and the devil, making them both angry at him. When he finally died, neither God nor the devil wanted him in heaven or hell, which left him to wander the earth. He had a carved turnip with a candle placed inside to light his way so he could see. Superstitious Irishmen carved out pumpkins with lights inside them so as to keep Stingy Jack from knocking on their doors.
Ghosts: Are seen as a huge part of Samhain being, in part, the festival of the dead. On Halloween, the barrier between the spiritual realm and the physical realm is broken (or at least very thin) and they are free to walk amongst the living during this time.
Black Cats: It was thought that witches could turn into cats or that black cats were the reincarnated souls of humans. Often people would suspect you of being a witch if you were a single woman in the 1600’s.
Skeletons: Many pagan religions had skulls featured on their gods, mostly associated with death. Skulls and skeletons are seen to be closely connected with the spirit realm and represent the end of the physical life on earth.
Costumes and Masks: On Halloween, people would disguise themselves as ghosts and the dead, to trick the roaming spirits into thinking they are one of them. This would then trick the spirit into not bothering them or making their life miserable.
Witches: The witch’s powers are believed to be most effective on Halloween. They are also believed to be working with the devil, and therefore practice dunkings and burnings at the stake. They are often associated with devil worship, evil, black magic, and misfortune.
Vampires: They are human corpses who have returned from the grave in order to torment the living. They are heavily connected with death and the spiritual realm. They are also said to have the power to transform into bats; which carry the symbolism of death, evil, mystery and the supernatural as they only work at night.
IS IT WRONG TO CELEBRATE IT?
Though the Bible has no mention of Halloween, it does give some answers to questions we have about it. First off, the Bible specifically condemns witchcraft, sorcery, necromancy and the like (Leviticus 19:31; Galatians 5:19-21), and since Halloween endorses these things, it would be wise not to participate. Though this may seem harmless, it is actually quite serious as it can invite demons to do what they do best; deceive and destroy (1 Peter 5:8; 2 Corinthians 11:14-15). The plain truth of the matter is that Christianity and sorcery don’t get along, and God strictly forbids it.
However, it is pretty obvious that in most places, people are not practicing sorcery and witchcraft and is mostly seen as a fun event for children. In fact, most people are entirely oblivious to the symbolism and meaning behind Halloween. But does this make it any more acceptable? Though people may not intend to portray symbols of death and demons in their front yards, God still knows what it means and does not see ignorance as an excuse. Just like if someone thought stealing was an acceptable practice, it does not excuse them from being responsible for their actions (Proverbs 24:12; 1 Timothy 1:13).
But does this mean that kids cannot dress up appropriately and go door to door asking for candy? There is nothing wrong with this part of Halloween as far as Scripture tells us, but we should still exercise some caution. Are we dwelling on the death and darkness that Halloween offers, or are we participating on the harmless side of the event? There are many churches that create godly environments for Christians to participate in the social side of Halloween, without the dark symbolism involved. However, if one decides to go out into the community to do “trick or treating,” then there is nothing wrong with that unless there is involvement in the satanic areas and aspects of the holiday. As Christians, we are to be a light and good example to the world (Matthew 5:14-16). It’s good to keep Philippians 4:8 in mind as well in regards to this: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
CAN IT BE USED FOR GOOD?
From an evangelistic perspective, there is no holiday better than Halloween. Unbelievers will literally come knocking on your door, giving you the perfect opportunity to share the gospel with them. This doesn’t necessarily have to be oral, but can also be as simple as some gospel tracts to go along with the candy you hand out. Any creative way to share the good news with the lost can be given a huge advantage on Halloween. The Bible says we are to shine light into the darkness, not join the darkness (Ephesians 5:11).
So as Christians, when we go out on Halloween, it must be remembered that we are to be imitators of Christ (Ephesians 5:1). We are the ones the world looks at to see what a redeemed life actually looks like, and observe whether or not we are living as hypocrites. If we are a good example to the world, then we are both pleasing God and being a witness of how God transforms us. As 1 Peter 2:9 says “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”