Next to Thanksgiving and Christmas, Halloween is one of the most popular celebrated holidays in America, with 157 million Americans planning to celebrate, according to the National Retail Federation. In a couple of days, jack-o-lanterns will sit on door steps, lawns and porches, the smell of pumpkin seeds will fill the kitchen and the excitement of the trick-o-treaters will be felt all around. With all the caramel apples, spooky decorations and creative costumes (and others not-so-creative), it’s no wonder that Halloween is so highly anticipated by children and adults alike. However, because Halloween is full of ghoulish, creepy imagery and comes from pagan origins, many Christians are on the fence when deciding whether to join in on the Halloween festivities. Some are under the impression that celebrating Halloween makes one’s spirit open to witchcraft, evil spirits and ultimately, Satan himself. What many people do not know is that Halloween in fact is associated with Christianity- and not in a dark way. Somewhere down the line, the history of Halloween got topsy-turvy. Originally named “All Hallow’s Eve,” Halloween began as a day to prepare for All Saints’ Day, a celebration of the early Christian church, which is celebrated on Nov. 1.
The Celtic people of Europe and Britain who were pagan Druids inhabited much of Europe, and as Christianity made its way through Europe, it collided with these pagan cultures. In fact, according to Grace to You, pagan holidays and festivals were seen as road blocks of faith to Christians, and to deal with that, the organized church designated a Christian holiday on the calendar to counter pagan influences and provide a Christian alternative. Instead of completely replacing the pagan holiday, the church only succeeded in mixing its Christian values and symbolism in with the original holiday. While, yes, death and darkness were involved during the pagan Samhain (pronounced “sow” “en”) festival that celebrated the end of harvest, through many occult practices such as communicating with the dead and making sacrifices with animals that were usually quite gory, many Christians saw this as an opportunity to bring superstitious pagans into God’s light. Newly converted Christians were able to see the truth and no longer feared spirits. This fear was denounced in Deuteronomy 18: There shall not be found among you anyone…who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.
For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord. Although the pagans reduced some of their practices, Christian converts still had the desire to continue some of the tradition of the holiday and attempted to rejoin the pagan festivals. In the ninth century, according to Grace to You, Pope Gregory IV responded to this by moving All Saints Day to Nov. 1, right in the middle of Samhain. As centuries passed, Samhain and All Hallows Eve became intertwined. Superstitions were let go of and the holiday represented more fun than fear. Trick-o-treat was no longer a custom practiced to shoo off disguised evil spirits, but a tradition that has become very well known in American society; as time went on, younger generations celebrated Hallow’s Eve without any reference to the pagan origins, and Halloween became an official American holiday. Today, Halloween has some ghoulishness about it, with the scary décor, horror-themed costumes and haunted houses that are featured on the eve of Oct. 31, but generally, it is seen as a holiday for children to have fun, get creative with their costumes and enjoy sweets.
Many churches around town even get in the Halloween spirit with pumpkin patches, fall festivals with candy and costumes and other festive events. While there is no judgment towards anyone who chooses not to celebrate Halloween, but educating oneself is always a good thing to practice. One’s convictions about Halloween must be individually chosen and personally followed.