Few festivals give Christians in the Western world more cause for debate than Halloween. To some Christians, it is merely a harmless time of year when children get to dress up and play games. To others, it is indicative of the prevailing godless worldview—a celebration in which children are encouraged to beg from their neighbors, while playing with traditions that date back to the most dangerous pagan occult practices.
The history of Halloween should give cause for concern. It was originally the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. This was a night when the spirits of the dead allegedly walked abroad, and it was thought that they could be conjured to do the will of those who summoned them. So, as the church in medieval times began to replace pagan festivals with Christian celebrations, Christmas replaced the Saturnalia festivals, and Samhain was replaced by All Souls’ Day on November 2, All Saints’ Day on November 1, and All Saint’s Eve on October 31. An old English word for holy (sanctified) is hallow, so October 31 was Hallows’ E’en.
Throughout the ages, the old pagan ways began to creep back into these “Christianized” festivals—and none more so than Halloween. Far from a celebration of Christian souls, it returned to its roots of summoning the dead. One ancient English tradition has families lighting candles in a sinister attempt to draw back the souls of dead relatives to the house. In Northern England, this was associated in the Middle Ages with the practice of Mischieving—from which the tradition of “trick-or-treating” is derived. These mischiefs usually involved doing damage to property and blaming it on the spirits of the dead. In more modern times, this has developed into the practice, in some places, where older children demand treats or money in exchange for not cursing the property.
Many parents who encourage their children to go trick-or-treating may not realize the occult background to this practice and simply see the activity as harmless fun. This may unwittingly lay their children open to all sorts of evil influence. In recent years, the police services in the U.K. and the U.S. have put officers on high alert at Halloween because of the growth of anti-social and vandalous behavior.
While I would argue that Halloween has always been a dubious and anti-Christian festival, carefully observant parents have noticed that in recent years the godless nature of the event has increased and realize that even more caution is warranted. This problem has occurred hand-in-hand with the slide into godlessness generally associated with an evolutionary worldview, in which God is not central to our lives, and death and the occult are glorified, rather than abhorred.
This leads us to the important issue of how Christians should respond to the festival. I would suggest the following:
- I, personally, urge Christians not to take part in the festival. The world of evil is very real, and we should not carelessly expose our children to it.
- If your children are being encouraged to take part in Halloween-related activities at their schools against your wishes, then contact the schools and voice your concerns.
- Consider giving tracts (U.S. | UK/Europe) instead of (or in addition to) giving them sweets or money. The ReachOut Trust (www.reachouttrust.org) also has many good tracts written for even very young children and include a gospel presentation for their parents.
- Consider an alternative. Many churches today are organizing “Light” parties or “Hallelujah” parties or other similar events that focus the children’s attention on the Bible and on Jesus. Another positive alternative would be to have a “Reformation Party” to mark the fact that October 31 is the anniversary of the day when Martin Luther nailed his theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg.