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What Does Halloween Mean to You?
ON Halloween night when confronted by a masked, costumed youth calling out, “Trick or treat,” you find it cute, just a harmless occasion for children to enjoy themselves. Do you consider Halloween to be a time to go to costume parties, bob for apples, and carve a hollowed-out pumpkin into a funny face? Do you put faith in stories about the return of spirits of the dead, of witches, and of ghosts and goblins? Is this time of the year a serious occasion to you, one when you visit the graves of loved ones and attend special religious services? People view the celebration of Halloween differently. But what does it mean to you?
Halloween actually means Hallow Even or the Eve of All Hallows. In the eighth century Pope Gregory III established November 1 as the date for a feast to honor all the saints, it being called All Saints’ Day. According to The Catholic Encyclopedia, it is a feast of the highest rank. Since all saints are considered hallowed people, the eve of the feast in their behalf came to be called Eve of All Hallows, or, for short, Halloween.
In the United States October 31 is Halloween night, a time for fun, boisterousness and playing pranks. It has been called the worst night of the year for vandalism, when both young and old run wild. In Latin-American countries November 2 is the day celebrated, but in a much different way. November 2 is the day of the Roman Catholic festival All Souls’ Day, which dates from about the eleventh century. This festival is based on the belief that the souls of the dead can be aided in getting out of purgatory to reach heaven by the prayers and alms-deeds of the faithful on earth. Therefore at this festival, referred to as the Day of the Dead and occurring the day after All Saints’ Day, people visit the graves of loved ones and offer prayers and alms in their behalf.
HALLOWEEN AND THE BIBLE
Does Halloween mean to you honoring dead saints and commemorating the departed by praying for their souls? Although Halloween and its associated festivals are religious feasts of Christendom in honor and in behalf of the dead, where is the Scriptural precedent for them? None can be found. When Cornelius fell at the feet of the apostle Peter to give honor to him, Peter did not approve, but said, “Rise; I myself am also a man.” Even when the apostle John fell down to worship an angel, he was rebuked: “Be careful! Do not do that! . . . Worship God,” was the angel’s command. (Acts 10:26; Rev. 19:10) The apostle Paul also warned about being deprived of the prize of life by men who would sponsor “a form of worship of the angels.” Wisely Christians avoid any celebration that is for the purpose of honoring anyone except God.—Col. 2:18.
The Bible teaches: “The living are conscious that they will die but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all.” (Eccl 9:5) Since the souls of the dead are not alive, it is impossible for them to be helped by the prayers of those on earth; therefore the festival All Souls’ Day is not founded on a Scriptural basis and shows lack of faith in God’s Word.
The Bible also teaches: “Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.” (Prov. 22:6) How can this scripture be harmonized with the Halloween practice of ‘tricking or treating’? It may appear cute to have youngsters call at homes with the requesting threat, “Trick or treat,” but is it cute when they grow older and threaten people with violence if they do not pay what they ask? Is this Halloween practice bringing up a child in the right way, or is it directing him toward an unchristian course of vandalism and crime?
ROOTED IN PAGANISM
Halloween’s roots, although not found in the Bible, can be traced back to a pagan origin. The pre-Christian Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all celebrated a festival for the dead. These ancients believed that on these occasions the spirits of the dead returned; therefore food was left for them and lamps were kept burning so they would not lose their way.
The Celtic order of Druids worshiped Samhain, lord of the dead, as well as a sun-god to whom the horse was sacred. On November 1, which was also their New Year, they held a joint festival in honor of these gods. It was believed that the souls of those who had died the previous year because of their sins were confined to the bodies of lower animals, and at the time of this festival Samhain assembled them together, and they were released to go to the Druid heaven. On the eve of the feast of Samhain the pagan Celts used to keep bonfires burning, believing that this would protect them from evil spirits.
The many features of today’s Halloween and Day of the Dead celebrations can be traced directly back to paganism. The ancients associated this time of the year with the supernatural and with the thronging of dead spirits, so it was right in line with Catholic church policy to adopt this date for their All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day. The people were thus able to keep their pagan customs and beliefs and still celebrate what are called Christian festivals of the highest rank. But the varnish applied by Christendom to these pagan feasts is so thin that there is no questioning the fact that Halloween is rooted in paganism.
WHAT HALLOWEEN MEANS TO A CHRISTIAN
How should Christians today view Halloween? Christians will be motivated by Scriptural principle and not by human reasoning that may argue: “What harm can come from letting children attend a costume party? Everyone else participates, and it is hard on the children when they are different.” It is not Scripturally wrong for children to have a costume party or play games such as bobbing for apples. However, doing so as a part of Halloween would be celebrating that pagan religious feast. This would be compromising Christian principles. One can be sure that Christ Jesus, who always stuck close to what the Bible said, would heed the divine commands: “You must not walk in the statutes of the nations.” “Do not learn the way of the nations at all.” (Lev. 20:23; Jer. 10:2) Jesus was never influenced by human reasoning into compromising on Scriptural commands! Therefore, neither will a Christian today compromise, even if it means being different and separate from the world.
Early Christians followed Jesus’ steps closely. They heeded the command: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. . . . ‘Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,’ says God, ‘and quit touching the unclean thing.’” (2 Cor. 6:14, 17) Edward Gibbon in the book Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Vol. I, pages 396, 397) says that early Christians took no part in “the games that the prince and people celebrated in honour of their peculiar festivals . . . The Christian, on these interesting occasions, was compelled to desert the persons who were the dearest to him, rather than contract the guilt inherent to those impious ceremonies . . . The dangerous temptations which on every side lurked in ambush to surprise the unguarded believer assailed him with redoubled violence on the days of solemn festivals.”
The situation is the same now. On the day of pagan festivals such as Halloween true Christians will want to be particularly on guard ‘to keep themselves without spot from the world.’ Christian parents will show real love for their children by explaining to them why loyal servants of God do not participate in the Halloween celebration. If as with the early Christians it ‘compels them to part with old-world friends,’ assure them that they are making God's heart glad by their uncompromising stand.—Jas. 1:27; Prov. 27:11.
If on Halloween night you are confronted with the requesting threat, “Trick or treat,” then what? Should you treat? Christians are not selfish, yet there is a principle involved, and true Christians are inflexible when it comes to Scriptural principles. The occasion could be taken to explain this, and even invite the youngsters back on another day with the assurance that then they will be given more information as well as a treat. Although Halloween poses as a Christian holiday, it is exposed as a pagan feast. It has not borne the fruit of pure Christianity but is a night when one fears for the safety of his property and possessions. Christians are looking to live in a new world wherein “righteousness is to dwell.” They are endeavoring to live now as they hope to live then, in that new world. Pagan feasts such as Halloween will not be observed then; that means a Christian will not celebrate them now.—2 Pet. 3:13.