Monday, October 26, 2015

Should Christians Celebrate Halloween And The True History Behind This Holiday

Psalm 101:3-4 “I will set no wicked before my eyes, I hate the work of them that turn aside; It shall not cleave to me”

Since Halloween is coming up this month I wanted to take the time analyze this holiday that is still quite controversial among the Christian community. There has been huge debate among Christians regarding the Halloween whether Christians should take part in its celebration or not. Whenever anyone normally thinks of Halloween, they think about people dressing up in scary costumes such as ghosts, witches, goblins etc., children going trick n’ treating in costumes at night and getting candy handed to them. Attending Halloween parties, or the haunted house to be scared, telling scary ghost stories or watching horror movies.  The fact remains, Halloween is just chance to do fun things like being scared, dressing in frightening costumes getting candy etc. 

Still for many Christians, they question if they should being participating in Halloween at all, with many rejecting the holiday altogether writing it off was ungodly and a devil’s holiday.  Others refuse to wear any costumes that they consider unsuitable like ghosts, witches, goblins or anything frightening. While others attend alternatives such as harvest parties or fall festivals.  For these Christians, Halloween such be avoided as it is dangerous and unholy and corrupts of Satan.  The Pope Francis himself has spoken out against Halloween as evil and anti-Christian and should be replaced with Holyween where children dress up as saints and pray. My own experience of Halloween growing up was nothing more than dressing up in costumes scary or non-scary and going around the neighborhood at night trick n’ treating and getting lots of candy.  I’ve even attended a Halloween party at a local church with friends and went enjoyed the haunted house where we got spooked by people dressed up in scary outfits trying to frighten us.  It was all fun and memorable so I can’t really comprehend why so many Christians are hung up on Halloween? 

Maybe it’s has with the fact many see it as a pagan holiday and therefore unbiblical.  I think maybe to get to the route of all of things I decided to research the origins and history behind Halloween.   Halloween’s roots goes way back in the ancient times 2,000 years ago in BC, as a Celtic holiday called Samhain celebrated that marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter.  It was believed that the spirits of the dead returned to earth on this night to be among the living. A festival was held at sunset on October 31 until sunset on November 1 by the Celtic pagans called druids in Europe.  The druids would light bonfires on these nights where they would sacrifice animals, bring harvest food, tell each other’s fortune and guide the souls of the dead to the underworld.  They would dress up wearing animal skins and heads to keep the evil spirits away, while they also left their doors or windows open for their spirits of their departed kinsfolk.

By the eighth century when Christian missionaries converted many of the druids to Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church decided to Christianize the Celtic holiday. Pope Boniface IV established All Saints Day in honor of the Christian saints and martyrs on May 13 in 609 A.D.  Then somewhere in 800s A.D., Pope Gregory III moved the holiday to November 1, the same day of the Samhain holiday also known as All Hallows Day or Hallowmas.  October 31, the evening before All Saints day became All Hallows Eve, called Halloween by the 16th century.  Pope Gregory IV put all All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day in the church calendar making it a universal celebration in the Catholic Church.  All Souls Day was later added on November 2 in 998 A.D. This holiday celebrated the remembrance of departed loved ones who have not been cleansed of their sins and in which people would pray for them to pass from Purgatory onto Heaven. 

By the medieval times, Halloween, a Christian holiday preserved some of the Celtic traditions of the past, continuing holding bonfires.  Other customs came about including a practice called “souling” which consisted of poor people and children going out at night to the homes of the wealthier people praying dead relatives of the home owners in exchange for treats called soul cakes.  Another custom was called mumming where people dressed up in scary costumes of ghosts, demons, witches etc. and performed antics such as singing, chanting, play-acting and mischief in exchange for food and drinks. This later evolved to singing a song, reciting a poem, telling a joke or playing a trick for fruits, nuts or coins.  During the colonial America, Halloween took form from customs of various Europeans and Native Americans which included celebrations of the harvest, play parties, telling ghost stories, telling each other’s fortune, dancing and singing and mischief making.

By the 19th century, more Irish, Scottish and British folks emigrated to America taking more of their traditions and customs with them.  Halloween began to be celebrated where people dressed up in costumes going to homes asking for food or money. By the turn of the century, Halloween less about ghost, witches, goblins and other scary superstitions, and more about people getting to together to celebrate with costume parties, apple bobbing and other games.  By the 1920s, Halloween had moved away from its religious roots becoming a more secular celebration that consisted of parades, parties and other featured entertainment. It also became more geared towards children as the trick or treating custom became known having evolved from the old rituals of mumming souling.  By the 1950s, Halloween became widely known as it is today, with children dressing in costumes and going trick or treating as the annual custom. Today, Halloween doesn’t have any relations to its Celtic Druid origins nor its later Christian roots it’s just a holiday for trick n treating for kids or attending Costume parties for adults. 

Other practices include carving pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns, going to spooky haunted houses for fun, watching scary movies or telling scary stories etc.  Some churches have also participated in celebrating Halloween hosting costume parties or haunted houses and even a trick or treat alternative called trunk or treat where people park their cars with their trunk full of candy to pass out to children. Some churches continue to celebrate All Saints Day, the day after Halloween where children dress up as Christian Saints who where martyred at a party.  In Eastern Europe, candles are lit and placed on the graves of loved ones in honor of them. Some churches like the Catholic and Anglican Church also celebrate All Souls Day.  My personal conclusions, is that Halloween has nothing to do with the devil, spirits or anything evil. It is simply a holiday but mostly a tradition of fun where for children they go out dressed up for tricking n-treating and getting lots of candies and sweets and for adults it’s for costume parties and celebration.  Ghost stories, Haunted houses and scary movies are also part of the fun and there is nothing wrong with that. Children amd youths especially enjoy dressing up and spooky costumes getting scared in fact the scarier the more fun. 

Of course, there are downsides like those who use the holiday to justify destructive and criminal actions such as vandalism, harming others and any other destructive behavior. These are definitely reasonable concerns but for the most part Halloween can be an enjoyable experience for all people to enjoy. Christians can decide for themselves if they want to participate in the holiday but they shouldn’t be ashamed or condemned if they do as if it makes them less godly then ones who don’t.  It also doesn’t matter what type of costumes they wear whether they dress as witches, ghost, goblins or other scary costumes, whether they watch scary movies or not since they certainly don’t worship such things and children don’t take them seriously anyways and doesn’t necessarily interfere with their walk with Christ.   

Also, some can still choice to celebrate both Halloween and All Saints Day the following they day and teach their children about the martyred saints and honoring the departed loved ones.  Halloween comes only once a year and after it’s all over, people can get on with their lives with work, school, church, prayer and their devotion to Our Lord and then look forward to next year when they can enjoy Halloween again.

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