Halloween which falls on October 31, is a joyous festival on which people dress up as goblins and demons and attend costume parties. Children dressed in costumes go door to door asking the owner of the house with the question, “Trick or treat?” If no treat was given, the children would perform a mischievous deed on the owner or on the property belonging to the owner.
However, is Halloween as innocent a tradition as it seems? A probe into the history of this widely-favoured festival would see that it originates from an ancient pagan festival for the dead.
1. Halloween was officially designated by the Roman Catholic Church
Halloween refers to the night before the “All Saints Day”, a Catholic festival. Halloween is also referred to as All Hallows or Hallowmas and was celebrated on November 1 as was designated by Pope Gregory IV (827-844) in A.D. 835. The festival was put in place to commemorate the departed faithful souls which they believed that have not been purified to reach heaven. The Catholics believe that there is a prayerful spiritual communion between those in the state of grace who died and are either being purified in purgatory or are in heaven.1) The word “Halloween” came from “All Hallow’s Eve,” which means the day before the All Saints Day, which later became Halloween. “Hallows” is defined as “saints” and “mas” is defined as “Mass.”2) Without a doubt, there are no records in the Bible about celebrating this day.
2. Halloween developed from the day of the “Lord of Death”
The customs of Halloween is a culmination of various folk customs around the world. Historians came to a consensus that Halloween developed from the special day celebrated by the ancient Druids who were educated and were the priestly class of the Celtic people who resided in northern France, United Kingdom and Ireland. These Celts worshiped a god known as “The Lord of Death” or “The Dead” on the summer festival Samhain on October 31, where human sacrifices were offered. They believed that on this night, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred and that ghosts, evil spirits and witches returned to earth and roamed the earth.
3. Halloween costumes were introduced to entertain the dead
Since the Celts thought these evil spirits might play tricks on the living, they dressed in grotesque masks and costumes typically consisting of animal heads and skins, danced around the bonfires, pretending to be pursued by evil spirits. They offered food to the ghosts so that they would feel entertained and welcomed and at home. If food were not provided, they believed these evil spirits would cast spells on them.
4. Halloween traditions today
During the second half of the 19th century, the new immigrants; the Irish who went through the potato famine of 1846 popularised the Halloween celebration as a national celebration. This is how the trick-or-treat tradition appeared when the Americans began dressing up in costumes and going door-to-door asking for food or money. The round-shaped sweet bread called soul cakes which were given out to commemorate the dead souls was “encouraged” by the Catholic church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food for the dead spirits. Halloween lanterns were originally carved out of turnips which then changed to pumpkins during the modern times since they were easier to carve. The Jack O’Lantern’s tale was about a young smith who made a pact with the devil. In the late 1800s, Halloween became a holiday for parties, games, foods, festive costumes and the scariness or the horror of Halloween faded away. 1)3)4)5)6)
5. Halloween is a commercialised pagan festival
Statistically, Americans spend around 2.5 to 3 billion dollars every year, which is the second largest amount after Christmas.
Halloween is basically a feast believing that dead spirits can return to the earth and give us good or bad luck. However, the Bible explains that if a person dies, his spirit returns to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7) and waits for judgment.
Revelation 20:11-13 Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. … and each person was judged according to what they had done…”
Luke 16:26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’”
Through Revelation Chapter 20 and Jesus’ parable about the rich man and Lazarus, after a person dies, we can understand that there is a great chasm fixed between heaven and hell. The person who dies will be judged according to what he has done on this earth.
Offering food to the dead through the Halloween festival and wishing for blessings to eliminate bad luck is an unfounded and non-biblical way to perceive the spiritual world. Biblically, most sacrifices; which are mostly done with food and not in accordance to God’s instruction, in Halloween, or any other special ceremony are all offered to demons; the devil and not to God.
1 Corinthians 10:20 No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.
We must watch out for false prophets and the false churches following pagan festivals such as Halloween, and we must be cautious about participating in these festivals that worships other gods.
Matthew 7:15 Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
A man is destined to die once, and after that he must face judgment. A person is destined to go to heaven or hell based on their actions while living on this earth. One may also be subjected to judgement if they were misled into practicing pagan customs like Halloween without knowing.
Matthew 15:14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
We should ensure that we are not being deluded by the devil, and steer clear of such pagan rites and rituals by being aware of the origin of such festivals. We should not pursue the customs of men but rather the truth of God which is the new covenant which promises the salvation of our souls.