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All Saint’s Who…. All Hallowed What?

October 31, 2009

250px-Jack-o'-Lantern_2003-10-31So what exactly is Halloween you say?  Well when I was younger my family didn’t care we all dressed up in the cheap vinyl costumes and plastic masks that stayed on with just a rubber band and got a garbage bag full of candy.  Back then Halloween wasn’t anything expensive or exploited,  kids went out when it got dark and nobody was afraid of kidnappers.  We would go into peoples houses and listen to spooky stories and get cookies and juice served by host’s and hosteses dressed up like the Dracula and Morticia.  It was only when my family started attending a large church and getting educated on the meaning of this holiday did we understand the danger of  it all.  Strangely enough the missionaries in this church did a really good job because it seemed like everybody became aware at the same time that we were all being fooled into subtely giving reverence to satan on a pagan day of worship.  To make matters worse this had all been sanctioned by the Catholic church long ago.  It’s amazing how many of our seemingly innocent holidays are not holidays at all.   The word Holiday for instance comes from the two words Holy and Day being said together.   Below I have cut and pasted some information from the website of John McArthur:

Halloween

Halloween. It’s a time of year when the air gets crisper, the days get shorter, and for many young Americans the excitement grows in anticipation of the darkest, spookiest holiday of the year. Retailers also rejoice as they warm up their cash registers to receive an average of $41.77 per household in decorations, costumes, candy, and greeting cards. Halloween will bring in approximately $3.3 billion this year.

It’s a good bet retailers won’t entertain high expectations of getting $41.77 per household from the Christian market. Many Christians refuse to participate in Halloween. Some are wary of its pagan origins; others of its dark, ghoulish imagery; still others are concerned for the safety of their children. But other Christians choose to partake of the festivities, whether participating in school activities, neighborhood trick-or-treating, or a Halloween alternative at their church.

The question is, How should Christians respond to Halloween? Is it irresponsible for parents to let their children trick-or-treat? What about Christians who refuse any kind of celebration during the season–are they overreacting?

The Pagan Origin of Halloween
The name “Halloween” comes from the All Saints Day celebration of the early Christian church, a day set aside for the solemn remembrance of the martyrs. All Hallows Eve, the evening before All Saints Day, began the time of remembrance. “All Hallows Eve” was eventually contracted to “Hallow-e’en,” which became “Halloween.”

As Christianity moved through Europe it collided with indigenous pagan cultures and confronted established customs. Pagan holidays and festivals were so entrenched that new converts found them to be a stumbling block to their faith. To deal with the problem, the organized church would commonly move a distinctively Christian holiday to a spot on the calendar that would directly challenge a pagan holiday. The intent was to counter pagan influences and provide a Christian alternative. But most often the church only succeeded in “Christianizing” a pagan ritual–the ritual was still pagan, but mixed with Christian symbolism. That’s what happened to All Saints Eve–it was the original Halloween alternative!

The Celtic people of Europe and Britain were pagan Druids whose major celebrations were marked by the seasons. At the end of the year in northern Europe, people made preparations to ensure winter survival by harvesting the crops and culling the herds, slaughtering animals that wouldn’t make it. Life slowed down as winter brought darkness (shortened days and longer nights), fallow ground, and death. The imagery of death, symbolized by skeletons, skulls, and the color black, remains prominent in today’s Halloween celebrations.

The pagan Samhain festival (pronounced “sow” “en”) celebrated the final harvest, death, and the onset of winter, for three days–October 31 to November 2. The Celts believed the curtain dividing the living and the dead lifted during Samhain to allow the spirits of the dead to walk among the living–ghosts haunting the earth.

Some embraced the season of haunting by engaging in occult practices such as divination and communication with the dead.Some embraced the season of haunting by engaging in occult practices such as divination and communication with the dead. They sought “divine” spirits (demons) and the spirits of their ancestors regarding weather forecasts for the coming year, crop expectations, and even romantic prospects. Bobbing for apples was one practice the pagans used to divine the spiritual world’s “blessings” on a couple’s romance.

For others the focus on death, occultism, divination, and the thought of spirits returning to haunt the living, fueled ignorant superstitions and fears. They believed spirits were earthbound until they received a proper sendoff with treats–possessions, wealth, food, and drink. Spirits who were not suitably “treated” would “trick” those who had neglected them. The fear of haunting only multiplied if that spirit had been offended during its natural lifetime.

Trick-bent spirits were believed to assume grotesque appearances. Some traditions developed, which believed wearing a costume to look like a spirit would fool the wandering spirits. Others believed the spirits could be warded off by carving a grotesque face into a gourd or root vegetable (the Scottish used turnips) and setting a candle inside it–the jack-o-lantern.

Into that dark, superstitious, pagan world, God mercifully shined the light of the gospel. Newly converted Christians armed themselves with the truth and no longer feared a haunting from departed spirits returning to earth. In fact, they denounced their former pagan spiritism in accord with Deuteronomy 18:

There shall not be found among you anyone…who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord (vv. 10-13).

Nonetheless, Christian converts found family and cultural influence hard to withstand; they were tempted to rejoin the pagan festivals, especially Samhain. Pope Gregory IV reacted to the pagan challenge by moving the celebration of All Saints Day in the ninth century–he set the date at November 1, right in the middle of Samhain.

As the centuries passed, Samhain and All Hallows Eve mixed together. On the one hand, pagan superstitions gave way to “Christianized” superstitions and provided more fodder for fear. People began to understand that the pagan ancestral spirits were demons and the diviners were practicing witchcraft and necromancy. On the other hand, the festival time provided greater opportunity for revelry. Trick-or-treat became a time when roving bands of young hooligans would go house-to-house gathering food and drink for their parties. Stingy householders ran the risk of a “trick” being played on their property from drunken young people.

Halloween didn’t become an American holiday until the immigration of the working classes from the British Isles in the late nineteenth century. While early immigrants may have believed the superstitious traditions, it was the mischievous aspects of the holiday that attracted American young people. Younger generations borrowed or adapted many customs without reference to their pagan origins.

Hollywood has added to the “fun” a wide assortment of fictional characters–demons, monsters, vampires, werewolves, mummies, and psychopaths. That certainly isn’t improving the American mind, but it sure is making someone a lot of money.

Sooooo What should we Do Anointed Readers:

Well This year as in many years past my daughter and I have attended what is called a Harvest festival where the focus is that Jesus is the Lord of the Harvest.  The goal is to go and bring friends that normally would go Trick or Treating and introduce them to the gospel.  There are Hey rides, pony rides,  the kids get candy by answering simple bible questions and playing go fish which is a really funny game where they have to hook these fake fish on these rods they give them.  The fish represent The harvest for the kingdom.  The smallest children are allowed to dress as sheep and the older children are allowed to dress as shepherds and other biblical characters.  Every year this festival gets bigger and bigger they give away bags and bags of groceries to the needy and sign up people for much needed social services.  Now I call that a treat and not a trick.  This church went out on the worst night of the year and reached out to the community and tried to meet the needs of the people and at the same time tried to entertain the kids.  I didn’t see one ghost, ghoul, skeleton or fairy.  They had gospel singing and dancing well into the night.  I can’t go this year because of a heart condition (God is a healer I am claiming it),  so instead when I hear the little knocks on the door,  I plan on handing out little gospel tracks geared toward children and oranges (instead of candy to rot their little teeth).  It is time for the body of Christ to find new ways to respond to the broken society especially the youngest ones.   Don’t shutter your windows and turn out your light this year,  turn on your light get some tracts or turn on some gospel music.  Instead of wowing the kids with ghost stories like everyone else,  introduce them to the gospel by  telling them a bible story.  Instead of giving them candy and other goodies,  just to fill their tummies, you will have fed their souls with the good news of the gospel.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. corcey permalink
    October 31, 2009 6:38pm

    Nice article and finally there is a Christian who can tell the truth. I still believe that everyone needs some darkness in their lives. What I don’t understand is that you don’t seem to believe in ghosts, but you believe in the holy ghost. If God does give us free will, why can’t he give us the will to stay here?

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