The Herald Weekly Vol XVI : 44

Christians and Halloween

Like many other popular commercial activities all over the world, the celebration of Halloween is keeping the cashiers busy, causing the cash machines to bring in more profits for businesses. In America and many other countries (even in China), it has become one of the activities which has helped to rake in billions of dollars every year. The sale of candy and costumes is fast competing with sales of items related to Christmas.

Social agencies, office H & R staff, schools, and other community organisations are taking advantage of Halloween to unite social communities as it appears to unite people of all races, languages and religions…or so it seems. Families who previously do not celebrate Halloween are now caught in the frenzy of making costumes for the children. Everyone gets excited about coming up with a new costume every year. It often starts with just a supposedly cute headband with horns on the top, and slowly those involved cannot refuse the fun of dressing up in an even ‘cuter’ costume. Homes become decorated with carved pumpkins, and forms of skeletons on clothes and parts of the house with decorative items (cheaply bought from Daiso).

Whatever the reasons for dressing up or going around the neighbourhood for a “trick or treat”, Singaporeans (including Christians) cannot avoid getting into the celebration of this festival on 31 October.

What does Halloween mean?

The word Halloween literally means the evening before All Hallows Day (or All Saint’s Day) celebrated on November 1. Halloween is also the shortened name of Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Evening and All Saint’s Eve which is celebrated on October 31. The origin and meaning of Halloween are derived from ancient Celtic harvest festivals. It is also associated with a night filled with candy, trick-or-treating, pumpkins, ghosts and death.

History of Halloween

Halloween supposedly started more than 1900 years ago in England, Ireland, and Northern France. It was a Celtic celebration of the new year, called Samhain, which occurred on November 1. The Celtic druids (members of the high-ranking professional class in ancient Celtic cultures) revered it as the biggest holiday of the year and emphasized that was day when the souls of the dead supposedly could mingle with the living (sounds similar to the Hungry Ghost festival). Bonfires were a large part of this holiday too. Samhain remained popular until St. Patrick and other Christian missionaries arrived in the area. As the population began to convert to Christianity the holiday began to lose its popularity. However, instead of eradicating pagan practices such as “Halloween” or Samhain, the church instead used these holidays with a Christian twist to bring paganism and Christianity together, making it easier for local populations to convert to the state religion.

Another traditional belief was that during the night of November 1, demons, witches, and evil spirits freely roamed the earth with joy to greet the arrival of “their season” – the long nights and early dark of the winter months. The demons had fun frightening, harming and even playing all kinds of mean tricks on the poor humans . The only way, it seemed, for scared humans to escape the persecution of the demons was to offer them things they liked, especially fancy foods and sweets (similar to the the Chinese Seventh Month). Or, in order to escape the fury of these horrible creatures, a human could disguise himself as one of them and join in their roaming. In this way, they would recognize the human as a demon or witch and the human would not be bothered that night.

During the Roman empire, there was a practice of eating or giving away fruit, especially apples, on Halloween. This practice spread to Ireland and Scotland from Britain, and to the Slavic countries from Austria. It is probably based on a celebration of the Roman goddess Pomona, to whom gardens and orchards were dedicated. Since the annual Feast of Pomona was held on November 1, the relics of that observance became part of our Halloween celebration, for instance, the familiar tradition of “dunking” for apples.

In modern celebrations of this festival, costumes take the place of disguises and candy has replaced fruits and other fancy foods as children go door-to-door trick-or- treating. Originally trick-or-treating began as “souling,” when children would go door-to-door on Halloween, with soul cakes, singing and saying prayers for the dead. Over the course of history Halloween’s visible practices have changed with the culture of the day, but the purpose of honoring the dead, veiled in fun and festivities, has remained the same.

Should Christians celebrate Halloween?

Perhaps the best way to answer this question is to pause for a while and consider a few things: What are you actually celebrating? What is Halloween all about? Is this festive activity spiritually uplifting or does it just add to the list of worldly pleasures that we sometimes find so difficult to separate ourselves from?

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, and said in chapter 4 verse 8 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

Is Halloween based on godly themes such as the idea of peace, love, truth and salvation, or does the holiday and its activities conjure feelings of fear, oppression and bondage? Is this really an activity which we want our children to be associated with? As parents, why would we want to instil ideas of fear in our young children? Why do we want our children to observe or be involved in Halloween activities?

The Bible does not sanction practices associated with witchcraft ,witches and sorcery. Leviticus 20:27 is quite clear about certain practices which are an abomination to the Lord. Those who practiced witchcraft, soothsaying and sorcery were killed in the Old Testament days.

The Hebrew people were warned in Deut 18:9-13:

“When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out before thee. Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God.”

Ephesians 5:11 says: “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” This verse clearly tells us not to associate with dark activities, but to expose them and shed light on this practice.

In the early days, the celebration of Halloween was not exposed by the church, but was incorporated into the “holy days” of the church. So, does this mean that today’s Christians are to also incorporate this as a festival to be associated with? Even as some may have celebrated Halloween in some way or another, perhaps, you might want to seriously reflect on its origins and the meanings associated with its customary practices.

In John 17:15-17, Jesus prays to His Father for His followers:

“I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”

As followers of Christ, we are reminded that we are in the world, but we are not of the world. The Apostle Paul challenges believers of Christ to:

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing: and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor 6:17-18)

May God’s truth open our eyes that we may be able to guide ourselves and our children in the way that they should go.

Pastor Bob Phee

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