Trick or treat .... Is It harmless?
Written by Reg Wright
A festival that is becoming more and more popular these days is Halloween -- celebrated on the eve of 31 October. Australians are indeed embracing Halloween in greater numbers and spending more money on this festival. Halloween decorations are more readily available in the shops and online and people are embracing this festivity with greater enthusiasm.
Well meaning parents dress their children as vampires, devils, monsters, witches and ghosts and encourage them to go door knocking on Halloween eve and ask for lollies and other treats.
More homes these days are sporting Halloween decorations with all sorts of things – images of black cats, ghosts, goblins, and carved pumpkins. Some even transform their yards into make-believe graveyards. Adults will dress in strange and outlandish costumes and go to parties decorated like dungeons with low lights and morbid surroundings.
If you really want to get into the spirit of Halloween, all sorts of information about Halloween can be found on the Internet. On the web you can find Halloween Live Chat, Screen Savers, Masks, Decorations, Books and Stories, Adult and Children’s Costumes, Movies and Pumpkins.
The manufacturers are making lots of money by supplying Halloween products to the public. And the public is buying. This is now a lucrative business.
It all looks like so much fun and seems so harmless: jack-o'-lanterns, grotesque grinning masks, long black witch attire with pointed black hats, costumes painted like skeletons, outfits that represent demons and goblins, and children going door to door, soliciting treats from compliant neighbors.
But is Halloween really harmless?
What’s the origin of this bizarre festival? Is Halloween simply good, clean fun, or is it something else entirely?
Where did Halloween originate?
The Encyclopedia of Religion explains: "Halloween is the name for the eve of Samhain, a celebration marking the beginning of winter as well as the first day of the New Year within the ancient Celtic culture of the British Isles. The time of Samhain consisted of the eve of the feast and the day itself (31 October and 1 November).
"On this occasion, it was believed that a gathering of supernatural forces occurred as during no other period of the year. The eve and day of Samhain were characterized as a time when the barriers between the human and supernatural worlds were broken. Otherworldly entities, such as the souls of the dead, were able to visit earthly inhabitants, and humans could take the opportunity to penetrate the domains of the gods and supernatural creatures.
"Fiery tributes and sacrifices of animals, crops, and possibly human beings were made to appease supernatural powers who controlled the fertility of the land . . . Samhain acknowledged the entire spectrum of nonhuman forces that roamed the earth during the period" (1987, pp. 176-177, "Halloween").
On this holiday "huge bonfires were set on hilltops to frighten away evil spirits . . . The souls of the dead were supposed to revisit their homes on this day, and the autumnal festival acquired sinister significance, with ghosts, witches, hobgoblins, black cats, fairies, and demons of all kinds said to be roaming about. It was the time to placate the supernatural powers controlling the processes of nature" (The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, Micropaedia, Vol. 4, p. 862, "Halloween").
It was, bluntly put, a day devoted to appeasing demonic spirits and the dark side of the spirit world -- something in which no Christian should have any part.
Ephesians 5:11 says: And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
So how did this dark celebration continue into modern times?
Halloween came down to us from the Roman Catholic Church which assigned a day of each year to each of its saints. When it reached the point that they had more than 365, they then combined them together on November 1 and called it "All Saints Day" or "All Hallows Day" -- the night before being "All Hallows Eve" or "Hallow Even" (holy evening), contracted to the name Hallowe'en or Halloween.
Why was this particular date of the year chosen?
Again The Encyclopedia of Religion explains: "Samhain remained a popular festival among the Celtic people throughout the christianization of Great Britain. The British church attempted to divert this interest in pagan customs by adding a Christian celebration to the calendar on the same date as Samhain. The Christian festival, the Feast of All Saints, commemorates the known and unknown saints of the Christian religion just as Samhain had acknowledged and paid tribute to the Celtic deities" (p. 177). Thus a pagan celebration was relabeled as Christian.
What does the Bible say?
You cannot find any support for Halloween in the Bible, because God adamantly opposed this kind of pagan occult celebration and He warned His people Israel to have nothing to do with such festivities (Leviticus 19:31; Deuteronomy 18:10-12).
God does not take Halloween lightly. As He says, "Learn not the way of the heathen" (Jeremiah 10:2 KJV).
And, "Take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise'" Deuteronomy 12:30).
God will not always remain tirelessly patient with those who insist on celebrating harmful and superstitious customs such as Halloween. "...The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.... What kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God...." (2 Peter 3:9-12 NIV).
The real author of Halloween
The author of sin and death, Satan the devil, is also the behind-the-scenes author of pagan customs like Halloween. Jesus said that Satan is a liar and the father of all lies (John 8:44).
God is the God of the living, not the dead (Matthew 22:31-32). He is the God of not only true Christians alive today but, because of the certainty of the coming resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15), of those who will yet live when raised from death. So certain is this resurrection that to God it is looked on as an accomplished fact (see Romans 4:17).
Conversely, Satan is the lord of the dead in that he leads people by his lies and influence into the way of death and puts them in bondage to the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).
He has foisted Halloween on ignorant people and even well-meaning Christians in a subtle and deceitful way, perpetuating it with a "Christian" mask that hides its demonic origins.
Can people make Halloween harmless?
The religious excuse for perpetuating Halloween might be that church leaders long ago called it a "holy evening" for all the saints who had no day assigned to them. But the reality is most people who celebrate this evening today are not interested about such religious notions. For them it is a time for fun and festivity.
The Encyclopedia of Religion goes on to say: "Modern Halloween activities have centered on mischief making and masquerading in costumes, often resembling otherworldly characters. Folk customs, now treated as games [such as bobbing for apples], have continued from the various divination practices of the ancient celebrants of this occasion. Supernatural figures [such as the ghost, the witch, the vampire, the devil] play a key role in supplying an aura of the mysterious to the evening, whether or not they originally had an association with the festival.
"Children are particularly susceptible to the imagery of Halloween, as can be seen in their fascination with the demonic likeness of a carved and illuminated pumpkin, known as the jack-o'-lantern. In recent times, children have taken up the practice of dressing in Halloween costumes and visiting homes in search of edible and monetary treats, lightly threatening to play a trick on the owner if a treat is not produced" (p. 177).
Halloween is one of many human traditions that cloud biblical teachings and keep people in the dark from God's truth that can set us free (John 8:32). It is not a harmless celebration for us or for our children. God warns us to avoid it and to follow His ways, because He hates for us to dabble in the darkness of the spirit world of Satan and his demons!
Instead we are directed to our Lord who said: I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life (John 8:12).
Many people are shocked to discover the origins of our most popular religious holidays. They are also surprised to find that the days God commands us to observe in the Bible-the same days Jesus Christ and the apostles kept-are almost universally ignored. Why? Also, why are today's supposedly Christian holidays observed with so many rituals and customs that are not sanctioned anywhere in the Bible? In this booklet you'll discover detailed answers to these questions.
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About the Author
Reg Wright is a retired United Church of God Elder and serves as the Personal Correspondent for the Church – answering questions from our readers and viewers on the Bible and Christian living.