Making Sense of Halloween
Ghosts and goblins, skeletons and skulls are the order of the day. Shrill voices and bright eyes of wonderment gaze hopefully upward and beg trick or treat. Pumpkins and black cats are all enlisted to create a mirthful ambience that horror is fun while death is a game.
Halloween falls annually on October 31st. It marks one of two great seasonal turning points of the year. It is largely a northern hemisphere festival, so it celebrates the changing of summer to winter. The other significant turning point is May Day, where the promise of summer is enjoyed.
In recognizing the return of winter Halloween marks a time of darkness, death and chaos. Halloween is a celebration of darkness that seduces those who are in the light to celebrate it too.
Originally Halloween was an ancient Celtic fire festival of the dead. There were four annually:
- Imbolc - January 31st
- Beltane - May 1st
- Lugnasad - August 1st and
- Samhain - October 31st
These fire festivals began with bone-fires, where bones where used as kindling. (Hence the term bonfire.) From the bonfire a torch was lit and taken to each home to burn continuously for a year. At year's end the old one was extinguished and a new one lit to mark the New Year.
In recognizing the return of winter Halloween marks a time of darkness, death and chaos.
Beltane and Samhain were two parallel festivals. Beltane signified the beginning of summer and Samhain the start of winter. It was also the advent of the Celtic New Year. Curiously Samhain was the brightest and most energetic of the four annual fire festivals. Dancing around the flames and leaping through them would supposedly guarantee a good harvest.
Christians renamed Samhain as Halloween in 837 AD, literally it is All Hallows Eve with November 1st being All Saints Day and November 2nd being All Souls Day. Halloween was the failed attempt to Christianise this pagan festival. The Celts believed that at Samhain their dead ancestors would come inside their house to warm themselves at the hearth.
Central to Halloween was the celebration of the dead (explaining why so many ghost-like and skeleton costumes continue to this day). Halloween was the New Year's festival to the Celtic Lord of the Dead, or the Lord of Darkness - Samhain.
The Celts would correlate the fire festivals with the execution of convicted criminals. At the feast of the dead, the deceased were honored and so too was the supremacy of dark over light. (Remember summer has gone and winter arrives.)
Pagan belief holds that crucial joints between the seasons opened cracks/gaps in the space/time fabric, thus permitting brief and deliberate contact between the ghost/spiritual world and the mortal/physical one. These two worlds would join on the night between the old and new seasons.
Consequently such thinking led to the belief that the dead could return to their homes for a night. Rituals were then developed for hospitality to the dead. This included the lighting of bone-fires to guide the spirits home.
Central to Halloween was the celebration of the dead
The Celts would put out food and drink for the dead with great ceremony. Homes were left open so the dead had unhindered access, as swarms of spirits flowed into the world on October 31st. Even the Celts knew that not all spirits were friendly, so they carved images of guardian spirits into vegetables and placed them on their doors to ward off evil spirits. This really was an 'inverted passover.'
At Samhain, the Lord of the Dead called together all the wicked souls who died within the previous year that were destined to inhabit animals. Hospitality to the spirits would placate them from doing evil. Prosperity was promised to generous donors and tricks to those who refused - hence trick or treat. This then led to the practise of souling.
Souling began as a custom that begged special cakes for the dead. Under Christian influence this changed to wealthy people giving soul cakes to the poor.
Halloween is the sanitising of evil. - David Beasant
Fear, death and darkness (all characteristics of Halloween) to those who live in the light is evidence to handiwork of the evil-one.
Satan is celebrated/worshipped annually by a day masked in its dedication to him. Remember life is literally about who/what each individual worships - Halloween is the exact, but deceitful reality of what satan tempted Jesus to do in the desert, that is worship him!
Growth in the Lord means a developing distaste for unrighteousness, the deeds of darkness within this world. This is the path of maturity (see Hebrews 5:13-14).
Satan is celebrated annually by a day masked in its dedication to him.
That which meets the growing approval of the world, a world under the rule of the prince of the air is NOT going to meet the approval of God. This is the first indicator that Halloween is not acceptable.
Our Christian Response
- Thank God that He has released us from darkness and brought us into the light. (John 1:4-5, 9:5)
- Recognize this as true spiritual warfare with the powers of darkness deceptively gaining strongholds in this world. (Ephesians 6:10-13)
- Halloween is literally making acceptable the unacceptable. When darkness is celebrated, the dead are honored and indulgence is promoted it becomes clear that this festival is not seeded in light.
- Refuse to share this naive dancing with satan. Do not entertain it in any manner. To support it gives satan a stronger foothold with his influence of the world. (2 Corinthians 6:14-15)
- Heed the Bible's warning, for this is no trivial festival. Countless people will celebrate it without thought, but for many it is the night of the greatest possible significance.
- When children come Trick or Treating gift them food for the soul; some small piece of appropriate Christian literature. Refuse to be enrolled to support that which is against Christ and thus give this pagan festival more reinforcement/traction for next year.
Further Biblical Witness
1 Corinthians 10:20-22
Revelation 21:8, 22:15
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