The subject of Halloween is something that has caught my attention over the last few weeks. Some might ask Why?
As this is a natural part of life in America, they may add that: “this is the second important occasion on our yearly calendar after Christmas. Its a fun time for us and our children, who dress up in a scary clothes and go around trick or treating and having lots of fun” Fun? I am not so sure about that? Can we call dressing up our children as vampires, ghosts, devils and witches as fun? As I passed through some stories, I was some what surprised by how much impact Halloween played in people lives. It was everywhere, in shopping centers, banks, hospitals, households, everywhere you could see signs of people preparing for this “fun” celebration. I was even asked by one person in a retail store where I had obtained my black gown, because this was exactly what she was looking for, for a Halloween party! When I replied “from Egypt”, she became so sad, perhaps because she expected me to tell her which costume shop I had bought it from!
We also need to realize that Halloween is a big business in America. The Christian Broadcasting Network states that, “Merchants also look forward to October 31. The sale of candy, costumes, decorations, and party goods make Halloween one of the major retail seasons of the year.” In a book called “Halloween and Satanism” it states, “Did you know that Halloween is a day witches celebrate above all other days? … Even the Internal Revenue Services has given tax exempt status to the church of Wicca (the official church of witchcraft), which means your gift to witchcraft is a tax deductible, charitable donation of a religious nature, the same as if you were tithing to the (Christian) Church.”
So how did Halloween begin? Many centuries before the birth of Christ, the Celts and priests, inhabitants of Britain and Ireland, observed the festival of Samhain on October 31 (Samhain is their god, lord of the dead), this marked the eve of the Celtic New Year, which began on November 1. It was at this time that full harvest was complete and winter was creeping in. The Celts believed that the power of the Sun was fading and for the next few months, darkness would prevail. They also believed that during the Samhain, the evil separating the living and the dead was at its thinnest. They believed that on the evening of October 31, evil spirits and souls of the dead passed through the barrier and entered the world of the living. Departed family members would revisit their earthly homes. The thought was frightening and exciting!
The Celts believed that these spirits and dead souls could torment the living. Crops might be destroyed, babies stolen, farm animals killed. But this was also an opportunity to commune with the spirits, and divine the future. The Devil, the lord of darkness, was ordinarily feared, but during Samhain, his power would be called on to foretell the future.
Trick or Treat
The Druids were responsible for appeasing the goblins and preventing harm to the people. Huge Samhain bonfires were lit to guide the way of the spirits. Various sacrifices, including human, were performed to assure a good year. Like many pagan cultures around the world, the Celts left out food for the spirits, hoping that a “treat” would prevent an evil “trick”.
Centuries later, descendants of the Celts continued to observe the Samhain festival by dressing as evil spirits. They roamed from house to house demanding food in exchange for the “spirits” leaving the home unharmed. They craved demon faces in hollowed-out turnips and lighted them with candles. This is what is called “Jack-O-Lantern”. The story says that an Irish drunkard named Jack made a deal with the devil and devil agreed to spare his soul for ten years. But a year later, Jack died and was turned back from the gates of heaven. So he went to the gates of hell and was rejected by the devil also. So as Jack was walking to find a place, he was eating a turnip so the devil threw him a live coal out of the fires of the hell. So Jack put the coal in the turnip to help him see. It is believed that since that time Jack is roaming the face of the earth with the Jack-O-Lantern seeking a place of rest. I hope such a story that is rooted in devil worship will make people think carefully before they put a Jack-O-Lantern in their house!
Just as people once offered gifts of food to the spirits, people today offer treats to the children who represent them. In reality, the lighted Jack-O-Lanterns, the children carry, are really a symbol of the fires and torches of former Halloweens and of the ancient Samhain. This was the beginning of the trick or treat!
All Hallows’ Eve
In the seventh century the Roman Catholic Church set aside a day in May in memory of the early Christians who died for their faith. It was called All Saints’ Day. By the year 900 the date was changed to November 1st. Another name for All Saints’ Day was All Hallows. October 31st. was known as All Hallows’ Eve, which was later shortened to Halloween. The reason for the change of the date was an attempt to encourage people to replace this evil celebration with a holy feast.
Halloween in America
Halloween with all its customs arrived in America in the mid-1800’s with the Irish immigrants. The costumes of the Children going “trick or treating” has become an established American tradition. Only in recent years have parents hesitated to send their children into streets because of the increased danger of accidents, poisoned food, and menacing strangers.
People today might be innocently imitating the ancient Celtic customs, but in an indirect way they are participating and celebrating something sinister and evil. The Christian Broadcasting Network states that, “Witches and Satanists still consider Halloween to be one of the strongest times during the year to cast a spell. On Halloween most witchcraft practitioners participate in ritual called “drawing down the moon”. In this, the chief witch of the coven (group of witches) becomes, they believe, a channel for the moon goddess. During this ritual, the participants both male and female, are ‘sky-clad’ that is, naked … Evidence persists that some Satanist and voodoo groups offer sacrifices – usually animals but possibly human babies”.
The Biblical Response to Halloween
People celebrating Halloween today are naturally not thinking about the darkness and evil that underlies most Halloween practices. They are just thinking of it as a fun time. Some might say, “surely, you can not deny children or adults the fun of the Halloween just because of its past hideous history. Can there be anything wrong with lighthearted raging?”
Let us see what the Bible says.
In the book of Deuteronomy God gives clear instructions to His people concerning associating with such practices. “When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. These shall not be found among you anymore who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead”. (Deuteronomy 18:9 – 11)
In the second book of Kings it says, “And they caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.” (2kings 17:17) So, all of these practices God saw as evil, and angered Him.
Saint Paul mentioned witchcraft amongst the works of the flesh which are the manifest in Galatians 5:19-21. Also Saint John in his Revelation mentions that sorcerers “shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)
In the book of Micah the prophet also, God speaks out strongly against those who practice witchcraft and the like by saying, “I will cut off sorcerers from your hand, and you shall have no soothsayers. Your carved images I will also cut off, and your sacred pillars from your midst; you shall no more worship the work of your hands; I will pluck your wooden images from your midst; thus I will destroy your cities. And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury on the nations that have not heard.” (Micah 5:12-15)
I hope that it is clear to the beloved readers, the background behind Halloween and that it is not something which is fun and nice. It does have evil connotations to it that we must be aware of. What does it mean as a Christian to dress your child as a witch or devil? Is this what our Lord has asked us to teach our children? Some might say that, “this helps us to teach our children not to be afraid of anything.” Is this the way to teach our children not to fear, or is it through the words of Christ that fear is cast out and peace and comfort prevail? I am sure the answer is clear!
Let us rethink how we spend this day. Let us educate our young people about the facts of Halloween and perhaps arrange for a spiritual meeting to replace the Halloween parties that young people attend. During this time perhaps a lecture or discussion can be organized around this topic. It should be also a time of fervent prayer, so that our Lord Jesus Christ will protect us from all the powers of the Enemy. As we say in the Prayers of Thanksgiving. “All envy, all temptation, all works of Satan, all intrigues of the wicked, rising up of enemies, visible and invisible do cast away from us and all your people.”
– His Grace Bishop Suriel
Bishop of Melbourne and Affiliated Regions