Should Christians celebrate and participate in the holiday known as Halloween? This question and debate inevitably comes up every year. Before we get around to looking at this question from a biblical standpoint, I want us to take a quick look at the history and origin of Halloween (http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween).
The origin of Halloween is Celtic in tradition. Over 2,000 years ago, the Celts would celebrate the end of their harvest season on October 31st. This was known as the Festival of Samhain. They believed that ghosts returned on that night to destroy their crops and possess the living. The Celts would dress up by wearing animal heads and skins. They did this in hopes to confuse and/or drive away the “ghosts.” When the Romans conquered Celtic territory, they took this holiday and ended up combining it with two of their own Holidays: Feralia, a day to remember the dead and Pomona, a day to celebrate the goddess whose symbol was the apple (the next time you find yourself “bobbing for apples” you can thank the Romans)!
In the 7th century, Pope Boniface took this day and idea and created All Martyr’s Day (which eventually became All Saint’s Day celebrated on November 1st). This fusion holiday become known as All-Hallows. Therefore, October 31st ended up becoming All-Hallows Eve and then eventually Halloween. Halloween began gaining popularity in America in the 1800’s as communities celebrated by dressing up and going door to door for treats. Halloween is now the second largest commercial holiday in America and has come to be a good excuse to get lots of free candy and dress in fun costumes.
Now that we know a little history about this Holiday, let’s turn our attention to the Bible. Even though the Bible obviously doesn’t directly address Halloween, there are principles and guidelines that can and should be considered. The Bible says in Romans 4:15 that, “Where there is no law, there can be no sin.” Sin is violation of the law (1 Jn. 3:4). Those who believe that celebrating Halloween is sinful are obligated to provide the law in the New Testament in which they feel is being violated (either implicitly or explicitly).
Some who oppose Halloween reason that it would be wrong because the holiday has its origin in “pagan” roots. However, to be consistent with that line of reasoning, that same person would also have to argue that it’s wrong to celebrate any birthdays, Valentine’s Day and even the days of the week since these are all of pagan origin.
Some have identified this inconsistency and have come to the conclusion that any and every “holiday” or “celebration” is wrong because of the pagan association of its origin. While I respect the attempted consistency, I believe their fundamental premise is faulty because something can be originally associated with sin, yet still be used for good.
For example, in 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14, Paul speaks of meats that were associated and originally used for idol worship. Some brethren believed that these meats shouldn’t be bought and eaten because of their origin and association with idol worship. Paul explained that there was nothing wrong with eating or buying these meats as long as one could properly disassociate it with the pagan origin (1 Cor. 8:4-8). Paul also urged the Christians to be sensitive to the conscience of those who couldn’t disassociate it (1 Cor. 8:9-13; Rom. 14:14-16).
“Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:22-23).
I have a friend who does not celebrate Halloween because he does not like the attention and the focus that, he believes, is placed upon “sin/darkness” (spiritually speaking). I explained to him that I do not see any spiritual darkness in this holiday as far as the way I celebrate it. It is a fun time where kids (and adults) get together and have a fun time dressing up. It is a time where my wife and I can test our pumpkin carving skills (she always wins by the way), and it is a time where the community comes together and enjoys each other’s company in fall festivals and other “Halloween” events.
I respect my friend’s decision and he respects mine. At the end of the day I believe when it comes to this subject we should:
“not judge one anther any longer, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way” (Rom. 14:13).
– Kevin Pendergrass
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