Halloween, at least in North America, can't be avoided. It's popularity is in every neighbourhood, record sales in the retail industry and the shining spotlight of the media has turned this day into one of society's highlights for the year.
I have written a comprehensive article regarding the question 'Should Christians celebrate Halloween?' on my blog (A Broken Man). This is a shortened version of this article so I would warmly recommend the reader to this entire article for a more detailed answer.
Growing up in a small town in Australia this event was actually a non-event. I don't remember seeing any houses decorated, the stores didn't promote it and I didn't know anyone at school who dressed up or trick-or-treated. Now, living in Canada I am bombarded from all angles with this celebration.
While there are not great records of the Celtic traditions involved, scholars generally agree Halloween has evolved from a pagan celebration and a Christian attempt to overrun pagan superstition with a Godly focus.
History of Halloween:
It's believed Halloween originally stemmed from Celtic celebrations and coincided with the timing of the final harvest and the start to winter. This festival, called Samhain (pronounced 'Sow-en'), was run from October 31st - November 2nd each year.
During this time the Celts believed spirits of the dead crossed over from the spiritual realm to the earth. Hence the Samhain became a remembrance of the dead and included attempts to communicate with the dead and other occult practices.
These Celtic practices were established by the time the Roman Empire conquered the land and later when Christians began spreading their message. The Church realised they couldn't eliminate this celebration, they attempted to replace the Samhain festival with one of it's own (and it became the first 'Halloween Alternative').
All Saint's Day (which was later extended to include All Hallow's Eve on October 31st and renamed 'Halloween') and All Soul's Day became the central focus of the Catholic Church and was a 'Christianised' version of the previous Celtic event on the same few days.
Thrown into a blender these Celtic, Roman and Church rituals and superstitions largely formed the early traditions of Halloween, now add to the mix western society's commercialisation and we've got a 21st Century Halloween.
For the history of trick-or-treat, costumes and Jack-o-Lantern, plus the importance of this day on the Wiccan (witches and pagan) calendar and Halloween in a modern day context please refer to my blog post at www.abrokenmanblog.com
So Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?
In my explanation of the history of Halloween, I have attempted to gather as much information as I needed, in order to weigh up the records of the past. It seems without doubt Halloween has evolved from a combined mix of traditions and rituals from both the Celtic era and the Catholic Church and both celebrated this event with a remembrance of the dead.
I would however caution anyone choosing not to celebrate this event based on some pagan roots because Christmas traditions also stem from pagan celebrations and if you're going to say 'no' to Halloween you need to consider cancelling Christmas this year.
In saying this, I am not endorsing the celebration of Halloween, because I think the modern day focus needs to be discussed and of course the Word of God accepted.
What does the bible say?
Consider a couple of references in the New Testament about eating food sacrificed to idols as a precedent for how we should participate in, or avoid Halloween. Please review and pray into these biblical references as an opportunity to seek the Lord for your own decision regarding your participation with Halloween.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians, chapter 8, verse 8 eating food sacrificed to idols does not have any bearing on our relationship with the Lord (although certain other criteria are applied around this) and yet in Revelation chapter 2, verse 20 Jesus rebukes the church of Thyatira for being deceived by a prophetess and eating food sacrificed to idols.
While these verses may seem contradictory it's likely the church of Thyatira were participating in the pagan festivals of the day, eating the food sacrificed to idols and joining the sexual immorality that was part of these events. For the church of Corinth, the topic of eating this food seems to have been a hotly debated subject and causing division among the people, thus Paul says it's ok to eat this type of food, as long as the larger issues are considered (e.g. unity within the church) first.
To draw this into context with Halloween, while some consider it innocent to 'trick-or-treat' and dress up in costume, just as Paul discusses eating food sacrificed to idols as being ok, what about when we participate in Halloween? Does our participation in this dark night become the same behaviour Jesus rebukes in Revelation for active involvement in a worldly event?
Whatever you do, don't compromise! We must not compromise our faith in favour of being accepted by society (or family and friends) and don't confuse those around you by sitting on the fence.
To be honest my question about 'safe' Halloween events is: 'If I'm opposed to the celebration of Halloween by society, won't attending a Halloween event (no matter how safe and innocent) bring confusion on my stance for my faith, in objection to the death and darkness celebrated on this night?'
If hiding in the basement is the only foreseeable action you believe can accomplish uncompromising faith, then do it. If your heart stirs to reach out to others and be a light into the darkness during this event spend time with the Lord asking how you can be the brightest light on the hill.
With the obvious focus on death at this time the topic of Christ's death and the saving power of His sacrifice is a great opportunity to share this good news in a relevant way.
But whatever you do, stand for your faith and don't compromise.
Tim Wilson is an Australian currently living in Canada with his wife (also a comment writer) and their three children. He is passionate about the Church living according to the Word of God and authors a blog to inspire and challenge men and women of faith. www.abrokenmanblog.com
Tim Wilson's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/tim-wilson.html