Should Christians celebrate Halloween? It’s a question that gets asked frequently at this time of year. There are good people on both sides of the Christians and Halloween discussion. There are good reasons for a yes answer and good reasons for a no answer. I’m not trying to convince you one way or the other but want to share some food for thought to help you and your family decide what is right for you.
Halloween’s Pagan Roots
Historians have linked Halloween to the ancient Celtic celebration of Samhain. That pagan holiday was traditionally celebrated on November 1st in Northern France, Britain, and Ireland. Through a long, slow process, that holiday was transformed into the current celebration of Halloween. For more on the history of Halloween, check out The History Channel’s page.
While it is true that there are echoes of paganism in the history of Halloween, the same can be said of Christmas and Easter. Instead of Samhain, Christmas co-opted the holiday of Saturnalia, and Easter the celebration of Eostre, a pagan goddess. The pagan roots of the holiday may prohibit some believers from celebrating Halloween in the 21st century. But it probably won’t matter to many.
Regarding the topic of Halloween’s pagan roots, ask yourself these questions:
- Do the pagan roots of Halloween bother me personally, and why or why not?
- Do the pagan roots of Christmas and Easter put them in the same class as Halloween? And if so, should I be celebrating them?
- Am I fearful that the pagan roots of Halloween will in some way harm my family? If so, is that fear from the Lord?
Halloween’s Christian Roots
Part of the ‘long, slow process’ I mentioned involved putting Holy Days on the Catholic church calendar in the Middle Ages to discourage the celebration of pagan festivals and encourage the observance of holier rituals. Hence, All Saints’ Day – also known as All Hallows Day – was observed on the first of November. The day before All Hallows Day was All Hallows Eve, which became Hallowe’en or Halloween.
Some churches still observe All Saints’ Day on November 1. However, in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the cathedral in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, thus starting the Protestant Reformation. This act eventually made Reformation Day a day of remembrance in many churches as well. These two days, taken together, have long competed with Halloween’s more secular (or sinister) attraction.
Regarding the topic of Halloween’s Christian roots, ask yourself these questions:
- Can I somehow remember the many men and women of faith who paved the way for me and my family, while also enjoying the secular nature of traditional Halloween celebrations?
- Do these men and women deserve a holiday or should I make it a more regular habit to remember past believers in another way (for example, reading aloud biographies of missionaries or martyrs)?
- Is the celebration of Halloween in its current form beyond redemption? That is, should I even try to merge these historical facts with the holiday?
Halloween’s Current Spiritual Undertones
While the roots of Halloween may not be of interest to you in your decision-making process, perhaps the current spiritual undertones will be. Carving pumpkins, going trick-or-treating, and dressing up as robots, aliens, or princesses may be all done in fun.
However, the association with horror movies, the dead, zombies, monsters, vampires, and ghosts (not the Casper-the-friendly-ghost kind), can give some families reason to reconsider their involvement with Halloween. Even decorations, with the preponderance of witches and skulls, seem to bring out the darker side of the holiday.
Along these lines, a family needs to think about the ages of their children. It is relatively easy to convince a toddler or preschooler that a ladybug or pirate costume is great, but when a pre-teen wants to be a zombie, what do you do? Avoiding the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22) is one Biblical guideline that can help your family make decisions.
Regarding the topic of Halloween’s current spiritual undertones, ask yourself these questions:
- Will my family be promoting evil in any way, or the appearance of evil, by celebrating Halloween?
- What does it mean for us as a family to avoid the appearance of evil?
- Will we establish age limits on activities such as dressing in costumes or trick-or-treating?
- How can we promote the fun side of Halloween while distancing ourselves from the spiritual undertones of the day?
Biblical Principles That May Help
- Liberty, not license – while believers have freedom in many things, 1 Corinthians 6:12 gives us further guidance about how to use that liberty: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.”
- Liberty, not selfish pursuits at the expense of others. Again, freedom belongs to believers, but supporting weaker Christians may be the way to go. Romans 14: 13-14 say, “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.”
- God made and rules over all the days of the year – don’t give false allegiance to Satan by claiming Halloween is his day. “He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God” (Romans 14:6)
- Don’t glorify what God has condemned – including witches, sorcery, mediums, and ghosts. I’d include vampires, werewolves, and zombies with that group as well. “For those nations, which you shall dispossess, listen to those who practice witchcraft and to diviners, but as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do so” (Deuteronomy 18:14).
My kids are grown and have families of their own. My husband and I chose not to celebrate Halloween when they were young but did participate in many alternative activities such as trunk-or-treat, fall festivals, and Biblical costume parties. With young children of their own, both our sons have chosen to celebrate the holiday, and we have no problem with that. Ultimately, each family must decide for themselves how and why they will or won’t celebrate Halloween.