My goal is not to tell you what to do. I’m not that kind of pastor. My job is to reprove with Scripture (2 Timothy 4:2) and let you decide as the Spirit leads you to truth (John 16:13).
The origins of Halloween are simple. It derived from the Roman Catholic Holiday, All Hallows Eve, which occurs before All Saints Day. The latter is a day to celebrate Romanist Saints, either deified pagan gods renamed as “saints,” popes, or those declared saints by a long list of prerequisites. A “saint” in Catholicism is someone who has made it out of purgatory and into Heaven, and there are currently about 10,000 in Heaven (a small community indeed) declare so by the Roman Catholic Church.
The previous, All Hallows Eve, was a syncretic Celtic holiday of pre-Christian (mostly Scotland), known as Samhain. People would light bonfires and wear costumes and masks to ward off ghosts of the dead, who they believed were wandering the earth and might have it out for them. The masks were designed to confuse the dead. As is often the case with Catholicism, Samhain was incorporated into the Catholic Holiday of All Saints Day, and held in honor the day before so pagans would be more likely to join the next day’s activities. It was renamed, over time, “All Hallows (Saints) Eve,” and eventually through slang, Halloween. The church began to leave “soul cakes” outside to appease “dead” visitors, much like leaving cookies for Santa Clause.
Jack-o-Lanterns began as a means of in Ireland of caving turnips – and later pumpkins – into grotesque faces to ward off evil spirits, and possibly vandals. Contrary to rumor, the term “bonfire” does indeed come from the term “bone fire” but not from human bones, but animal bones, as a form of sacrifice.
The day for Samhain, or season, developed at the end of the harvest and beginning of the cold season, n which the realm of the living and dead would be confused, steeped in superstition. People actually celebrated this day because they believed the druid priests could communicate with the spirits to make accurate predictions about the harshness of the winter. Laymen would get in on the fun by trying to read each other’s fortunes.
Trick-or-Treating began as a system of bribery (in good fun) to be fair, to get candy or do vandalism to the property. Girls believed they could “divine” the household to determine if there was a future husband thereby doing various tricks with yarn.
When Halloween came to America in the early days, it was strictly forbidden as pagan in all the colonies except Maryland (mostly because of the Puritan influence), which was primarily Catholic. When the mid-19th Century Potato Famine in nearby Ireland came, they largely ignored the Puritanical influence and popularized the holiday in their communities.
WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH YOU?
So your kid dresses up as a superhero and gets candy. What’s the big deal? Well, there’s probably not one considering we’re so far removed from its origins (although the vandalism is still prevalent in some communities) and is – in some circles – a night of debauchery.
Is it a sin? That’s probably fitting under the category of adiaphora – or Christian liberty (Titus 1:15) unless you are taking part with someone prone to superstition or who has recently left witchcraft at which point (Romans 14:13-23) probably applies. There is, I shall note, a growing group of actual witches that meet in Sidney.
As for me, upon discovering the origins, my family stopped observing the Holiday in 1988 (this is about the time people were putting razor blades in candy). We took our kids several years, and felt guilt over it. We will still buy candy for the occasional door-knocker, and give them a Reformation Day tract (it’s better than a box of raisins.
However, a word of caution:
Ephesians 5:11 says, “Ephesians 5:11, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”
1 Thessalonians 5:22 says, “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
Let these verses at least inform your decisions as to whether or not to participate. And I have one more word of caution. Dressing up your kids as Iron Man is one thing, but as a witch, druid, pagan, vampire, or monster is something that no Christian should do in my opinion. Playing pretend with evil is not adiaphora.
And finally, grow up (1 Corinthians 13:11). Not only doesn’t dressing up as an adult make you act like a child, I have noticed that costumes for grown women are increasingly indecent. I’ll remind you of our church covenant, which says we shall avoid all forms of immodesty. Just because you can dress up as a serving wench or sexy pirate doesn’t mean you should.
Jordan Hall. Pastor and Publisher
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