- The History of Halloween
- All Hallows Eve
- Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
- An Observation
- Unconscious Participation
- Tips and Suggestions
I've never been a fan of Halloween as a holiday. I wasn't the biggest fan of candy and I didn't like to dress up— besides, trick or treating is quite difficult in the country. However, since I was a fan of all things scary, I found enjoyment in Halloween TV shows and movies. I watched movies like Hocus Pocus every year; it never gets old. Strange as it seems now, some of my favorite movies were things like Jeepers Creepers, Underworld, and Saw. Gory, dark, and violent, these were movies that went hand in hand with festivities of Halloween. I basically lived beside the TV during the month of October.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Phillipians 4:8 KJV
When I started checking my entertainment for God's approval a while back, I already knew most of the things I entertained myself with would have to go. I started axing everything that didn't stand up to God's standard; I used Paul's definition of what we should think on in Philippians 4:8 to help me get passed whether I thought it was OK and gauge what it said about godliness. This past October was the first October since I really started consciously purging these things in my daily activities, and I started to realize how much more interconnected to Halloween I actually was!
Below, I want to talk about the history of Halloween, for those who don't understand what the big deal is and how, even though I didn't feel like I "celebrated" Halloween, I was being sucked in to the holiday anyway. Also, I'll add some tips for the season.
The History of Halloween
Like most of the holidays we celebrate, Halloween is actually a conglomeration of holidays rolled into one. From Samhain to All Hallow's Eve and the Feast of All Saints, Halloween borrows from lots of ancient traditions. Halloween is the second largest commercial holiday in the U.S., and like Christmas (the largest commercial holiday in the U.S.), the earliest settlers of our country did not celebrate this holiday. If the Puritans celebrated on October 31, it was more likely that they were celebrating a more important, but often overlooked occurrence: Reformation Day.
All Hallows Eve
Many Christian who observe the holiday argue that the holiday's roots in the Catholic All Hallow's Eve (possibly the source of the modern name) make it acceptable. However, the Catholic church was well known for intermixing paganism with Christianity, a practice not supported by Biblical text.
Deuteronomy 12:29-32 makes it clear that God's people were expected to eliminate pagan practices when they conquered the promised land, not mix them with their own practices the way the Roman church did. Malachi 3:6 tells us that God does not change, so why would it be OK for Christians to mix pagan practices in with our belief but not the Israelites? Jesus came to save all people not all practices... Colossians 2:8 and Matthew 15:3 further command that we not follow the traditions of man or the ways of the world. Basically, just because a church sanctions a holiday, it doesn't mean God sanctioned the holiday.
For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
All Hallow's Eve was a vigil for the dead—yep, we're still talking about death—in which Catholics commemorated the dead. Some believed that this was the time that people in purgatory were released and they would return to their old homes. Not only is purgatory not supported in the Bible, but Ecclesiastes 9:5 tells us that the dead know nothing. Job 14:1221 and Revelation 20 discuss the fact that the dead are not risen until the first and second resurrections at the end of the world. Those who are currently dead are merely waiting for this day.
Even if you want to believe that the dead have some sort of consciousness (Job 14:10-12 says they're "sleep") and are congregating in a place called purgatory, the Bible tells us that the righteous don't ascend to heaven until the end of the world and the evil aren't thrown in the lake of fire until judgement day. This means it's impossible that souls are "freed" from purgatory on All Hallow's Eve. The passages in Job further tell us that they wouldn't know vigils were held for them, either. Basically, the whole notion of All Hallow's Eve is riddled with false doctrine.
Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
Dia de los Muertos which means Day of the Dead in English, is a “Mexican” holiday started by the Aztecs 3,000 years ago. When the Spaniards conquered the area, they declared the holiday sacrilegious, but today it is a very popular holiday in Mexico and the Southwest (it was even celebrated by some where I live in South Florida). Interestingly, Day of the Dead was initially a summer holiday. It was moved to this time of year when the Spaniards brought Catholicism to the land. The Aztec celebration was then intermingled with the Catholic All Hallow's Eve and All Saints Day.
When I think of Day of the Dead, I think of sugar skulls and the elaborate skull artistry, but there are also parades and storytelling. There are even sacrifices to the dead on altars. The Old Testament seems to promote an aversion to death with dead bodies being proclaimed unclean (thus a skeleton would be something you would never touch). Celebrators of the holiday proclaim that the holiday is about not fearing death—which is probably true. It seems to me, to be a celebration of death. A person interviewed by AZ Central even says, "Part of our tradition in Mexico is to not be scared of death and to smile at it. It’s a celebration of our ancestors as they were when they were on this earth, alive. It was never a sad thing or a scary thing.” While I agree that death should not be feared, death is the reminder of sin. It is something we experience only because Adam and Eve brought sin into the world and is not one of the things God looked upon and said it is good. Celebrating death is like celebrating sin, is it not?
Day of the Dead has been it's own semi-separate tradition for awhile, but it is slowly being phased into Halloween, modern proof that Halloween is merely a melting pot of traditions. Merging these holidays is essentially the core doctrine of ecumenism: merging common beliefs (celebration of the dead) to promote unity. Peace and unity sound great, however, what's actually happening is the creation of a god that includes all practices as opposed to worshiping God as He is. A simpler example is when they ask you to pray at a function but forbid you to say "in Jesus' name" so that non-Christians may participate in the prayer. It's done in the interest of unity and peace, but it creates generality; the idea of a general and generic god as opposed to the God of the Bible (even for those who are from non-Christian religions, etc. they are generalizing their own deities as well).
Samhain was a Celtic festival which is likely the seed from which modern Halloween sprang. During this festival people would wear costumes and create bonfires to scare away "ghosts." Likely this is the origin of the light in jack-o-lanterns and the practice of dressing up in costumes. When Pope Gregory III created All Saints' Day (November 1), the Catholic church incorporated parts of Samhain into the new holiday. The belief behind Samhain was that during this time the veil between worlds was lifted, allowing the dead to roam the Earth. Not only did they believe these ghosts would ruin their crops and wreak havoc, they also believed this enabled priests to make predictions about the future.
This is just another example of pagans worshipping death, or a dying god (Satan) versus the living God. It is a living God and the living Holy Spirit that gives prophesies to us, not the dead. Like Day of the Dead, Samhain also featured sacrifices, though instead of sacrificing to the dead, the Celts sacrificed to Celtic deities. When the Romans invaded the land, they began merging their holidays with the holiday of Samhain. It is after a Roman goddess whose symbol was the apple, that we likely get the tradition of bobbing for apples.
For the holiday, the Dean's office at my school is decked out in spider webs and skeletons; the cafeteria went even farther, showcasing a horror movie and hanging a fake mummy corpse from the ceiling. There were eyeballs and skull decoration everywhere. Mind you, for a student who is paying for a meal plan (thankfully that's not me), this is the only place on campus the student can eat without spending additional money. How is it acceptable to ask them to ignore a life-size mummy corpse hanging from the ceiling when you walk in, but not OK to suggest non-Christians ignore Christian messages written online?
People are 100% OK with an administration decorating the school for the occult laden and disturbing holiday of Halloween, but the same people would flip out if anyone decorated a public place with Biblical quotes or imagery? When Christians talk about Jesus, it's always considered "pushing" your belief on someone; apparently just hearing the name Jesus makes people feel as though they're being pressured to believe in Him (talk about the power of a name!).
Just this year Felix Ngole was expelled from a university for expressing his faith in Leviticus 20 on his personal Facebook account. Yet, it's fine for Facebook to turn all of its reaction icons to witches, zombies, etc. Is that not literally forcing Halloween on me? The student who complained of Ngole's post could have unfriended Ngole, blocked him, and/or scrolled past his comment. However, last week there was no method to turn off Facebook's Halloween themed reactions. If I wanted to react with a "haha" face, I had to use the witch face whether I support that imagery or not. (If you're friends with me on Facebook, you've probably noticed you only get like or love right now; I refuse to use the Halloween faces). Interestingly, where I chose not use the faces as opposed to writing a letter to Facebook or filing a lawsuit or complaint, the student offended by Mr. Ngole's comment filed a complaint with the school. Yet, it is Christian's who are painted as intolerant and irrational...
Halloween praises the occult. It's a time to enjoy fear. We come up with horror stories, visit haunted houses, fantasize about the dead coming back to life as zombies or ghosts, dress up as people we idolize, and thoroughly immerse ourselves in occult themes. I'm not going to lie and tell you I recognized this as a child; that wasn't why I didn't get up in arms about Halloween.
One reason I probably wasn't gung-ho about Halloween was because it was the only "holiday" that I didn't get something. Christmas brought heaps of presents. Easter came with an Easter basket filled with goodies (and not just edible sweets!). Thanksgiving brought family and good food. Halloween only brought hardship; picking out a costume, buying the costume, going from house to house to ask for candy when I didn't like candy all that much. When you combine that with the fact that I lived in the country and there are only 4 houses within walking distance of my own, it's easy to see that the general celebration of Halloween wouldn't be appealing to me.
However, I clearly still got caught up in the themes it promotes. I didn't dress up or collect candy, but I watched the movies, read the books, and thought all things magical or supernatural was cool. I was buying into Hollywood's assertion that there are good and bad witches, vampires, werewolves, wizards, etc. Up until recently I never missed an episode of the CW's The Vampire Diaries or The Originals, and while I wasn't the biggest fan of the movies, I thoroughly enjoyed The Twilight Saga books, along with Vampire Academy (the movie for that series was even worse than the ones for Twilight). I have probably seen every movie based on a Stephen King book that has have ever been made. I even enjoyed the childish movies of Monster High, which feature zombies, mummies, vampires, werewolves, and more, normalized as teenaged girls in high school. All of these themes were floating so heavy in my mind that I was able to place in a Halloween-themed short-story contest one year in high school.
Obviously, participating in pagan holidays is bad. God documents this throughout the Old Testament, and it's a source of concern when the apostles begin converting Gentiles in the New Testament. God does not change (Malachi 3:4), so we know He doesn't want us enjoying the worship or celebration of paganism. I wasn't participating in the holiday, so from an external point of view, I was doing just fine. Now that I think about it, however, I think internalizing so much that glorifies these themes may actually be worse! Some people just love candy; they see Halloween as a chance to stock up on as much candy as possible. Some people just don't want to disappoint the little kids that come to their door, so they buy candy to give. These people don't really think about the origins of the holiday and they aren't necessarily into the themes of the holiday; they're just in it for the people (or themselves). I, on the other hand, was taking in the the themes year-round. I put my mind at risk.
Now, it's easy to look back and think, "well, I enjoyed those things for 27 years and I never wavered in my faith; it's not a big deal." The devil puts similar thoughts in our minds all the time; he wants to convince us that we can go on the way we've been living without consequence. He's saying to us "you will not surely die, go ahead." It's a convincing argument too; I know why Eve ate the fruit. I can say it's harmless fun all I want, but the truth is I'm allowing myself to be persuaded that evil is good. Witchcraft, vampirism, and other occult themes are being normalized in my mind each time I pick up a book or movie glorifying such themes. Despite the surface level evaluation that I haven't lost my faith, this puts a strain on my relationship with God. Out of my mouth I was confessing love for Christ, but what was I confessing out of my mind and heart?
This year, I'm proud to say that I didn't watch anything that promotes the occult. It wasn't easy, because I have 27 years worth of experience knowing that Netflix is 100% right in suggesting such a movie to me, but when the month came to a close, I felt at peace with God—that's what's important.
Tips and Suggestions
- Hold a Bible study, or celebrate Reformation Day (this is actually how my home church kick-started Youth Ministries)
- Avoid the TV all together; think of it as a perfect time to catch up on all the things you've wanted to do but haven't found the time
- Avoid people who pressure you in to the status quo; they will pressure you into celebrating the holiday
It can be hard to stay away from the holiday, even if you don't enjoy it. Just like the Dean's Office at my college decorated the office for Halloween, some companies may do the same. How do you handle peer pressure to fit in when it's easier to just go with the flow? Jesus already warned us that it would be hard; He said we would be hated for His name sake. However, we must not forget that not only are there still Christians (like ourselves) in the world struggling with the same issues, there are also people in the world who though they do not agree with us, are respectful.
My apartment complex sends out both a letter and a door hanger for Halloween. The letter informs residents that if they wish to participate in Halloween trick-or-treating, they are to place the door hanger on their door. It also urges residents not to bother those of us who do not place the door hanger on the door. From what I could tell, the people in the complex were very mindful of this.
For me, the hardest part is the movies, not because they're such great movies, but because of the childhood memories associated with movies such as Hocus Pocus or Halloweentown. To combat this, I avoid channels that I know promote Halloween (Disney, Freeform, etc.) during these last weeks of October. Not only does this cut down on temptation to watch these movies (can't be tempted to watch if you don't know it's on!), it also frees up time. Instead of watching TV, I can read, finish up schoolwork, spend time with my cat, enjoy nature, or whatever.
- "Are The Dead Really Dead?". Amazing Facts. 2015
- Newland, Mary Reed . "All Hallow's Eve". Catholic Education Resource Center. 1999
- Cordova, Randy. "Day of the Dead history: Ritual dates back 3,000 years and is still evolving". The Republic | AZ Central. October 25, 2016
- History.com Staff. "The History of Halloween". History.com. 2009
- Bingham, John. "Christian student expelled for opposing gay marriage". The Telegraph. February 27, 2016
- King Saul did consult a dead witch for a prophecy, but that just ended up in his death. Since there are passages that condemn talking to the dead and witchcraft, this action is not encouraged behavior.
- We’re going to get in to the idea of good and bad witchcraft soon; when I penned this post I was in a growth phase and my understanding surrounding magic and witchcraft is a little more nuanced today.