And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11).
Halloween is celebrated in the Western world (and in Singapore too) as a fun time for kids to put on costumes and go door-to-door to get candy with their “trick-or-treat” call. Christians may be so caught up with this so-called fun-filled program that they may not even be aware of what they are actually involving themselves in.
Halloween can be traced back to the ancient religion of the Celtics in Ireland. One of their main feasts was Samhain (pronounced “Sow-ane”) which was held at the end of summer, Nov 1. They believed Samhain was a period when the division between the natural world and supernatural world became very thin, and ghosts and spirits were free to wander as they wished. According to Celtic Mythology, “During this interval, the normal order of the universe is suspended; the barriers between the natural and the supernatural are temporarily removed, the sidh (“fairy mound”) lies open and all divine beings and the spirits of the dead move freely among men and interfere, sometimes violently, in their affairs.” [Halloween was also a prominent celebration in the witches’ calendar. It is their festival of the dead and represents the end and the beginning of the witches’ year. They also believed that at this time the power of the underworld would be unleashed and the spirits were freed to roam about the earth.
The Druids (Celtic priests) generally performed their rituals by offering sacrifices, usually crops and animals, but sometimes of humans, in order to placate the “gods” so as to ensure that the sun would return after the winter, and also to frighten away the evil spirits. During this festival of Samhain, fires would be lit and would burn throughout the winter and sacrifices would be offered to the gods of the fires.
By A.D. 43, the Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. During their rule of the Celtic lands, the Romans assimilated the festival of Samhain into one of their own festivals, where rest and peace were given to the departed. As the Roman Church spread to parts of Europe, instead of trying to abolish these pagan customs, the Romanists began introducing this pagan culture into the church traditions. In the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV introduced “All Saints’ Day” as a time to honour saints and martyrs, to replace the pagan festival of the dead. Initially, it was observed on May 13 but the festival was eventually moved to Nov 1 by Gregory III. Thus, Oct 31, being the eve of the All Saints’ Day is called “All Hallows’ Eve” (“Hallow” means “Saints”). Today, it is commonly known as Halloween.
During Halloween, the people would dress themselves up in ghoulish costumes. People believed that during this period, the spirits of the dead would rise out of their graves and wander the countryside, trying to return to the homes where they formerly lived. Frightened villagers tried to appease these wandering spirits by offering them gifts of fruit and nuts. If not placated, villagers feared that the spirits would kill their flocks or destroy their property. The people also believed that in order to protect themselves, they had to masquerade as one of the demonic hoard, and hopefully blend in unnoticed among them. This is the origin of Halloween masquerading as devils, imps, ogres, and other demonic creatures.
During Halloween, it is common to see people hanging the Jack-O-Lantern in their homes. Do not be deceived thinking that this is merely a Lantern Festival! The Jack-O-Lantern apparently comes from Irish folklore about a man named Jack who made a deal with the devil that he would not be sent to hell after he died. [Note: The devil is never in-charge of hell, but rather hell was created by God to punish the devil and all those who follow him.] According to the folklore, when Jack died, he was stranded because he could neither go to heaven nor hell. He was forced to wander around the earth with a single candle to light his way. The Irish placed a candle in a turnip to keep it burning longer. When they went to America in the 1800’s, they could not find turnips in abundance, but there was plenty of pumpkin. Thus, they used the pumpkin instead. Thus, Jack-O-Lantern is the ancient symbol of a damned soul and becomes an essential part of Halloween celebration today. Pumpkins were cut with faces representing demons and were originally intended to frightened away evil spirits. It was said that if a demon were to encounter something as fiendish-looking as themselves, they would run away in terror.
With Halloween having all these associations with the nether world, should the Christian then be involved in Halloween celebration? Some Christians justify their participation in Halloween parties as merely harmless fun. Is Halloween just another party that doesn’t harm anyone and just childish fun? On closer inspection, we can see that Halloween is no different from the Chinese “Hungry Ghost Festival” which is usually held from the month of August to September. Whereas, many of us would definitely not get ourselves involved in the “parties” held during the Hungry Ghost Festival, then why should we get involve in Halloween parties? Would you want your child to celebrate the “powers of darkness”? Would you want your child to dress up as hideous demons or witches for “the fun” of it? Would you want to inculcate a “trick-or-treat” philosophy into the minds of your children, where they have the liberty to destructive behaviour if they are not given rewards?
On examination, Halloween does not even have one single redeeming virtue. The Bible reminds us that we are to “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1Thes. 5:22). Dressing up as evil spirits and witches would definitely be a violation of this command. The Bible warns us not to associate ourselves with works of darkness: “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11). All these are abominations unto the Lord, which Lord gravely warned the Israelites not to follow after the practices of the nations around them (read Deut. 18:9-12). Likewise too, today we are called: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:2). As children of light, let us walk in the light and not follow the works of darkness.
In 1517, an obscure monk by the name of Martin Luther started the spark in the reformation of the Roman Church. He chose Oct 31 (Halloween Day), to nail his 95 theses on the Wittenberg Church’s door to call for a debate on the erroneous practice of purgatory. The call was for the church to purge herself from unbiblical practices and to return to the fidelity of the Word of God. Today is Reformation Sunday. The church today must continue to reform and to keep herself pure, and not let unbiblical practices be assimilated into her fold as she prepares herself as the bride of Christ in waiting for the return of Christ. For a certainty, Christ would not want His bride to be in ghoulish attire when He returns!