Every October, many people look forward to one of their favorite holidays. That night is Halloween; a time where everyone gets the chance to dress up and become someone else for a change.
The thought of this is especially attractive to children as it allows them to enter into a fantasy realm where they can be a scary monster, a pirate, or anything else left to the imagination.
The fact that candy plays a big part on this night also makes this one of the most exciting holidays of the year for children…and even some adults.
But what does this all mean for Christians?
The History Of Halloween
It’s long been known that the origins of this holiday date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in what is now Ireland, the UK, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1st.
To them, this day represented the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the cold winter that would soon follow.
This was the time of year that was often associated with death.
As strange as it sounds, the Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. So, on the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, which marked the night that the ghosts of the dead returned to the earthly world.
On this night, the souls of the deceased were also thought to revisit their homes seeking hospitality. In order to welcome them back, there was a feast along with games. The first costumes were also worn at this time but no one seems to know exactly why. One theory is to disguise oneself from the souls that are returning that night.
In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a day to honor all saints which became All Saints Day. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve before it was later changed to Halloween.
As the years passed, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating and carving pumpkins. By this time it was a holiday celebrated worldwide where costumes and sweets played a huge part in the celebration.
By the 9th century, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands where it replaced Celtic rites.
In 1000 A.D., the church would make November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. It’s widely believed that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a church holiday instead.
All Souls Day was celebrated similarly to the original Celt festival where citizens had bonfires, parades, and dressed up in costumes as saints, angels and devils.
Back in America, the holiday wasn’t celebrated until the early 19th century. And even then, Halloween was only popular in the Southern colonies. However, the celebration was limited to public gatherings where people dance, sang songs, and told each other’s fortunes.
It wasn’t until the second half of the 19th century that Halloween caught on in the rest of the country and that was only because of the Irish immigrants who came over and brought with them the celebration of the holiday. It was around this time that Halloween began to take on its current form of dressing up in costumes and going house to house asking for food or money.
While some people were happy with getting treats, others were much more unruly and would often cause trouble if they got the chance. Vandalism soon became a problem and those in charge decided there needed to be a change.
It was decided that Halloween should be more about communities gathering together and less about pranks and witchcraft. And with this change along with community efforts, the vandalism was mostly eliminated.
By the 1950s, Halloween started to become directed more at children. However, the practice of trick or treats was revived so that those who promised not to vandalize would instead receive a piece of candy instead.
Those traditions have managed to stay relatively the same for all these years and it’s turned into one of the most popular and celebrated holidays, allowing people to have fun and take a break from their lives.
So, Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?
It’s strange to think that a version of this holiday even existed when Jesus was first born, but it did indeed.
However, when the letters of the New Testament were first penned, they had nothing to say about Halloween. Although it should be noted that witchcraft was a crime punishable by death in the Old Testament. And there was some of this going on in the early days before the holiday took its current form.
Since the holiday wasn’t mentioned in the Bible, it makes it easier for most Christians to ignore its roots.
I guess ideally, we should be celebrating All Saints Day which was meant to replace Halloween with a Christian holiday. Although you could almost say they are nearly the same thing, minus the bats, witches, and scary costumes.
It was only the belief behind the holidays that had changed.
With this in mind, we can all make our own decisions on whether we want to celebrate the new version of the holiday as opposed to what it once was over 2000 years ago. It can even be argued that it’s no different than taking joy in watching a scary movie. Only some prefer to dress the part.
So whether you choose to celebrate Halloween or All Souls Day a couple days early, have fun out there this year.