What is Halloween? How should we teach my children on Halloween? What does bible say about Halloween?
When I was growing up, I loved Halloween. Well, let me be more specific, I loved trick-or-treating, bowls of candy corn, and episodes of “The Simpson’s: Treehouse of Horror”. My good Christian parents never alluded to the fact that there might be something dark and backward about the holiday so when I came into contact with Christians who did not participate in Halloween I was confused and intrigued. I want to use this blog post to talk about some of the history of Halloween and it’s interesting connection to the Church, but also to provide some things to think about for parents. At the end of the day, parents need to make a decision about what they will teach their kids about Halloween so it is important for your spirit to be aware and your mind to be informed of what it is all about.
History of Halloween:
I don’t want to turn this into a dissertation so I’ll strive to be brief. There is a lot of conflicting information out there about the details concerning our modern celebration of Halloween so I will shy away from those details and try to give a general overview.
Most of our Christian Holidays find their origins in ancient pagan practices. For example, December 25 is not the actual date that Jesus was born (we don’t know the date), but as early Christians encountered Pagan beliefs and celebrations they used the pagan holidays to help explain the celebration of Jesus’ birth. That is why Christmas is only days after the winter solstice. Ancient pagan cultures celebrated the solstice as the mark of the Sun returning, because after December 22 the days begin to get longer instead of shorter. This does not make Christmas a pagan Holiday. Celebrating Jesus’ birth on December 25 began as a way of spreading the good news to those who were lost.
Halloween has similar kinds of origins. Ancient pagan cultures (including the Celts and the Britons) used to celebrate a harvest festival in which one of their gods would summon together the dead from the past year. Something like a ‘harvest of souls’. This was a common practice in many pagan cultures including ancient Rome.
Thus, when the Christians began to evangelize and teach about the good news of life after death they helped explain the doctrine of salvation by contextualizing it to the culture of the pagans. Centuries later, the Church officially established All-Saints Day. All-Saints Day is the day on the christian calendar that Falls on November 1 (originally it was May 13th). It is the day on which Christians remember those saints who have gone before us to eternal rest. On All-Saints Sunday we remember those who have passed away since the previous November 1.
Halloween is the eve of this Christian celebration. The word ‘Halloween’ is derived from the phrase “All Hallows (saints) Eve” i.e. the eve of All Saints Day. The evening before All Saints Day became a time of warding off spirits that were evil, people would set out food or drink to appease wandering spirits or unruly people who masqueraded as evil spirits (an early precursor to trick-or-treating).
As you can see, All Hallows Eve, was easily confused and corrupted by the early Celts who where learning about Christianity. Not because they had sinister motives or witchcraft in mind, but because the new teaching on the communion of the Saints and the celebration of All Saints Day, still lead to some confusion. That confusion has carried over to today…
Many of the practices of Halloween can be traced back directly to the early practices of pagan Celts and the efforts of Catholic missionaries to present them with correct teaching about Christ. Things like trick-or-treating, pumpkin-carving, parties, etc all have roots that were positive, not sinister. Though they were certainly the result of misdirected pagan spirituality which we denounce as a part of our faith. However, this does not mean it was not evil. Anything outside the truth of Jesus Christ is evil, especially in the spiritual world that we do not see.
But just as the Christian missionaries sought to supplant the evil spiritual rituals of the Celts and Britons, today the Christian traditions of All Hallows Eve have been supplanted by secular practices and worse. Those who do practice witchcraft, divination, satanism, or other evil practices have adopted this holiday as their own. One can see the natural draw after generations of dressing up like evil spirits, horror movies, monsters, and more.
What Should We Do?
As a parent I think you need to pray about this, inform yourself, and teach your kids about Halloween as you go. Halloween is not evil in-and-of itself, but there are definitely evil things that go along with it, because of the ways we have allowed it to be corrupted. But the same is true for Christmas as well. It’s easy for us to say that witchcraft and divination are evil (and they are), but what about the rampant consumerism that goes with Christmas or other Christian holidays. Many Christians are willing to say, “We’re not going to let our kids participate in Halloween because there is too much spiritual evil on that day.” But how many of those same parents are willing to say, “I’m not going to buy my kids Christmas presents, because consumerism is such a systematic evil.”
We must be thoughtful about all of the practices in which we participate, especially when our children are involved. And we must be aware that we live in a world in which spiritual evil is rampant. I don’t mind dressing up my son on Halloween and sending him out for some candy, but that doesn’t mean I should ignore the spiritual evil that can surround this holiday. If you feel that Halloween too flippantly engages with that spiritual evil then you need to prayerfully consider those feelings. But remember, that our cultural practice of Christmas has allowed the spirit of greed and consumerism to place a stranglehold on many people and even our entire economy to the extent that our economic system is dependent on Christmas sales for survival. There is much we must consider at all times, not just Halloween.
I am reminded of Paul’s words to the Philippians when he said, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil. 4:8). There are a lot of things that don’t fit that description on Halloween, but if you saw my son dressed up like a little lion last October 31, you might find something ‘pure’ on Halloween to think about.