Halloween—An Evil Night?
How is everyone on this All Hallow’s eve (day)? What is All Hallow’s eve you may ask? Well, today it is known as Halloween but also has been known as All Saints Day. So with a title like All Saints Day is Halloween really an evil night? Well let’s look at how this holiday began and see…
It all started with the Celts several thousand years ago…You see these ancient people believed that one night in the year (halloween then called the Celtic festival of Samhain) “the dead and the deceased intermingled with the living world, transcending all boundaries of time and space. Hence, to avert the possible danger that these disembodied spirits might cause on the living world, the people would extinguish any form of fire in their homes, with the purpose of making them cold and unwanted. They would then adorn different types of ghoulish costumes and parade through the streets making loud noise and chaos.”1 This festival is sometimes known as the Celtic New Year.
During medieval times, the church began to replace pagan celebrations with Christian ones; “Christmas replaced the Saturnalia festivals, and Samhain was replaced by All Souls’ Day on November 2, All Saints’ Day on November 1, and All Saint’s Eve on October 31. An old English word for holy (sanctified) is hallow, so October 31 was Hallows’E’en.”2
Hallow’s eve eventually became popular in ancient Rome which at one time ruled the known world. There it became more of a festival and bobbing for apples was invented.
“Throughout the ages, the old pagan ways began to creep back into these “Christianized” festivals—and none more so than Halloween. Far from a celebration of Christian souls, it returned to its roots of summoning the dead. One ancient English tradition has families lighting candles in a sinister attempt to draw back the souls of dead relatives to the house. In Northern England, this was associated in the Middle Ages with the practice of Mischieving—from which the tradition of ‘trick-or-treating’ is derived. These mischiefs usually involved doing damage to property and blaming it on the spirits of the dead.”3
As the Roman Empire declined and countries began to develop their boundaries, they took with them this ancient celebration. However as time marched on, the old pagan traditions reappeared.
In Germany, a major part of their past is the famous spot for witches in the Harz Mountains. “In the 18th century, natives believed that the region was the hovering spot for witches who were initially worshipped as forest goddesses and priestesses and later were damned as evil creatures. For the local people of Germany, the festival of Halloween is blended with Walpurgisnacht (night of the witches).
“…The festival of Halloween is observed on the 31st of October every year, to honor the dead and deceased. It is believed that every year, at this time, the spirits rise from their grave and mingle with the living.
“In Italy, the festival is celebrated to honor the dead and deceased. It falls on 31st October and is celebrated throughout Italy. However, in the country, it is celebrated more as the All Souls Day or All Saints Day, rather than as a festival…every household arranges for a special cake called the Ossa dei Morti, which is baked in the shape of a bean…The people put the cake, which is popularly called the Beans of the Dead, on the top of their table. Each family member congregates at a feast, which is observed on All Souls Day, while preparing the cake. During the feast, a profuse meal is placed on every table. This ritual stands for their belief that the living and the departed souls of the near and dear ones come together to participate in the Feast.
“In Spain, Halloween is a three-day celebration, starting from 31st October every year. The first day is referred to as Halloween or Dia de las Brujas (Day of the Witches). This is also called Samhain or Noite dos Calacs (Night of thePumpkins) in the north-west region of Galicia. This is followed by the celebration of All Saints Day (Dia de Todos los Santos) on the 1st of November. Finally, on 2nd November, the natives observe the customs and rituals of All Souls Day (Da de Los Muertos). The three day celebration is together referred to as El Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) and is widely observed by the natives of Spain, Latin America and also by the Latinos residing in different zones of United States and Canada…One custom that is peculiar only to this region is the consumption of a local drink made of herbs, called quemadas. The natives consider this to be the drink of their Celtic ancestors. The drink is infused with herbs and set aflame. This signifies the burning of bad luck and clearing the negative energies that dwell among the living during this time of the year. Apart from this, some villages even organize parades, where people dress in ghoulish costumes like skeletons & witches and dance in remembrance of their dead relatives.
“In the middle of the sixth century, even after the arrival of Christianity in UK, people continued to follow the ancient pagan rituals. The Fathers at the Church were worried over the growing supremacy of non-Christian festivals over the Christian holy days. Pope Gregory Is successor, Pope Boniface IV declared that May 13 will be observed as the All Saints Day. The pagans were extremely delighted to have this festival included in their calendar. But at the same time, they would not give up Samhain, the festival of the dead. However, Pope Gregory III was determined to eliminate Samhain and intentionally linked the Christian festival of All Saints Day to Samhain. Pope Gregory III declared November 1 as the All Saints Day, which later came to be known as All Hallows. Samhain came to be known as the All Hallows Eve or Halloween, owing to the fact that it falls the night before All Hallows. The Pope further allowed people to dress up to pay honor to the saints. Soon, the Church came up with a decision to include a second day to the festival. It was to be observed on November 2 and was named as All Souls Day.The day was dedicated to the remembrance of the departed souls. The festival marked the reciting of prayers and lighting of candles, to lessen the duration of suffering for the dead, before ascending to heaven. In England, the trick or treat tradition is not followed. Instead, the ritual of Soul Caking takes place, in which the children go from house to house, collecting money for the poor. People also give a soul cake to the children and on receiving it, the children recite a prayer for the departed relatives of the donor. However, the Soul cakes bear different names in different parts of England. For instance, in some parts, it is called the Saumas or Soul Mass cake and made out of dark fruitcakes. In another region of England, the cake are covered in caraway seeds and formed into a bun. People in some parts of UK light turnip lanterns on their gateposts. They believe that by lighting lanterns, their home will be protected from the spirits.
“In Japan, Halloween lasts for three days. On the first day, people visit the graves of their near and dear ones. They even decorate them with different types of fruit, cakes and lanterns. The second day begins with the erection of spirit altars called tamadane, at home. Families engage themselves in building the altars at their homes, for the departed souls of their loved ones. At the top of the altar,they place the ancestors memorial signs, along with a variety of mouth-watering vegetarian dishes. They also carve horse shapes on the cucumbers and place them on the altar. These horse-cucumbers stand for the horses on which the spirits are invited to ride. The final day of the festival is the time for the community to congregate together. People assemble to perform the bon-odori, a tempting slow dance where the dancers move in concentric circles or multiple lines. It is the occasion where hundreds of people dance together. In the evening, people float small paper lanterns on the river or sea. Tis ritual is associated with the popular belief that lights lead the spirits way back to the other shore.
“In Canada…the festival signifies that night of the year when, as per the ancient Celtic beliefs, the dead and the deceased rise from their graves and mingle with the world of the living. The festival is celebrated on the 31st of October and is considered to have originated from the Celtic festival of Samhain and the Christian All Saints Day…Some people even go to the extent of building life-sized replicas of caves and graveyards.
“In America, Halloween stands for a congregation of both religious and pagan beliefs, rituals and traditions. Irish immigrants were the ones to bring the festival to America. In 1840, during their escape from their countrys potato famine, they came to America and made it familiar with Halloween. Anoka, Minnesota, was the first city in America to conduct Halloween celebration officially, in 1921. Every year on October 31, Americans celebrate Halloween with complete zeal and enthusiasm. The festival is celebrated to pay tribute to the departed souls of the near and dear ones. It is believed that the souls of the dead relatives come to earth to visit their living relatives.”4
So how should we as Christian treat this day? No matter what country we live in, as a Christian we need to be careful with this holiday. “Many parents who encourage their children to go trick-or-treating may not realize the occult background to this practice and simply see the activity as harmless fun. This may unwittingly lay their children open to all sorts of evil influence. In recent years, the police services in the U.K. and the U.S. have put officers on high alert at Halloween because of the growth of anti-social and vandalous behavior.”5
Paul S. Taylor of Answers in Genesis writes in the October 27, 2008 Answers article, A Night When Evil Is Celebrated, Playing With Fire? “While I would argue that Halloween has always been a dubious and anti-Christian festival, carefully observant parents have noticed that in recent years the godless nature of the event has increased and realize that even more caution is warranted. This problem has occurred hand-in-hand with the slide into godlessness generally associated with an evolutionary worldview, in which God is not central to our lives, and death and the occult are glorified, rather than abhorred.
“This leads us to the important issue of how Christians should respond to the festival. I would suggest the following:
1 I, personally, urge Christians not to take part in the festival. The world of evil is very real, and we should not carelessly expose our children to it.
2 If your children are being encouraged to take part in Halloween-related activities at their schools against your wishes, then contact the schools and voice your concerns.
3 Consider giving tracts (U.S. | UK/Europe) instead of (or in addition to) giving them sweets or money. The ReachOut Trust (www.reachouttrust.org) also has many good tracts written for even very young children and include a gospel presentation for their parents.
4 Consider an alternative. Many churches today are organizing “Light” parties or ‘Hallelujah’ parties or other similar events that focus the children’s attention on the Bible and on Jesus. Another positive alternative would be to have a ‘Reformation Party’ to mark the fact that October 31 is the anniversary of the day when Martin Luther nailed his theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg.”
I couldn’t agree with him more.
Until next time, be safe out there today and tonight!