The Day: October 31. Most of the Western world (and some other parts) celebrate this day as evenfall comes. Homeowners prepare and decorate their house frontage with scary pumpkins, zombies, spiders & webs, skeletons & skulls, and other creepy props that one could muster up. Sweet treats of all kinds are hoarded and prepped by the front door for anyone who dares to knock.
Kids and adults alike don their most creative costumes then roam the neighborhood streets at the first sign of dusk—knocking on each door with a “trick or treat!” greeting. And what do they get? Tons and tons of sweets!
On the surface one would consider this celebration as a harmless and festive one – especially when the whole neighborhood is at play. But for us Christians, it’s always been a controversial occasion that comes with that nagging question at the back of our heads: “should Christians even celebrate Halloween?” Is it irresponsible for parents to let their children trick-or-treat? What about Christians who refuse any kind of celebration during the season—are they legalistic or overreacting?
No matter how commercialized this October event is, Halloween has almost completely pagan origins. As innocent as it may seem to some, it is not something to be taken lightly. Christians need to practice discernment and do their part in developing their convictions on this matter, particularly one that has garnered a lot of concerns from well-meaning Christ-followers.
Its Origin: The name “Halloween” comes from the All Saints Day celebration of the early Christian church, a day set aside for the solemn remembrance of the martyrs. All Hallows Eve, the evening before All Saints Day, commenced the time of remembrance. “All Hallows Eve” was eventually contracted and became “Halloween”.
As Christianity spread through Europe, it intertwined with indigenous pagan cultures and encountered established customs. Pagan holidays and festivals were so deeply rooted that Christians had difficulty separating these traditional practices, which eventually became a hindrance to their spiritual growth.
To deal with this issue, the church would commonly move a Christian holiday to overrule a pagan holiday with the intention of countering all its practices and provide alternatives. Most often, however, the ritual remained pagan but had a Christian title. It was interwoven into Christian practice and eventually replaced the holiday entirely.
Scripture says: while we do not find anything specific within Scripture regarding Halloween, there are certain verses from which we can build our convictions on and gain principles from.
In the Old Testament, witchcraft and sorcery were considered an abomination by the Lord. It was so detestable to God that the crimes related to these acts were actually punishable by death. Here are some scriptural references:
- “You shall not permit a sorceress to live” – Exodus 22:18
- “Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19:31
- “If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.” – Leviticus 20:6
- “There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God,” – Deuteronomy 18:10-13
In the New Testament, the occult practices of pagan cultures and Biblical Christianity clearly don’t mix. We find certain portions of scripture that plainly show that dabbling in the occult practices were against Christian-living:
- The story of Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8:9-24
- The account of Elymas the Magician – Acts 13:6-11
- A fortune-telling girl lost her demon powers when Paul cast out the evil spirit – Acts 16.
- New converts repenting from their occultism – Acts 19
In conclusion: while there is nothing evil about a Christian dressing up as a superhero, a cartoon character, or a princess—just to be able to ask for sweets, there are also things that need to be remembered:
- There is a need for us Christians to stay away from participating in the darker aspects of Halloween or any holiday for that matter. In any occasion or event, there will always be some elements that are clearly against biblical truth, goodness, and wisdom that we should veer away from. We should not engage in superstitious practices as the pagans do nor should we allow ourselves to be influenced by these cultural norms.
- As a Christ-follower, your attitude, costume, language, and behavior should still and always be reflective of Jesus Christ and not the world. For a lot of people, Halloween is a time to indulge in sinful behavior – vulgar costumes, drunkenness, pranks, vandalism, unsupervised children / teenagers, and a lot more questionable acts.
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,” Philippians 1:27
- For the unbeliever, witches, vampires, and zombies are in no way terrifying but one aspect of this holiday surely is: death (not to mention the fear of God’s holy judgment). As Christians, we are called to be counter-cultural especially in occasions like this; take advantage of this time to share the Gospel. One great idea to redeem this holiday is to give out Gospel tracts along with the sweets or talk to friends and relatives about the reality of death (which Halloween unfortunately portrays as something comical).
The decision is really ours to make and it is a matter of our own personal conviction before God. A Christ-follower must be willing to put in the proper study, reflective consideration, and utmost prayer on matters like this. We must remember that while we are to keep ourselves separate from the world, we also recall what the Apostle Paul taught us in Romans 14 – we must not use our freedom to cause others to stumble in their faith, nor should our own convictions cause division in the body of Christ. We are to do everything for the Lord—and that includes how you will go about Halloween on October 31.
So this Halloween, will you join the tricks as pagans do? Or will you treat others with the Good News of Jesus Christ? You decide.