Fantastic World of
Over the past few years, Halloween has become an enormous draw
to adults and their Halloween festivities. In fact, we're taking
over Halloween like never before, and the trend isn'
t just spooky, but sexy as well. Adult Halloween-goers can be seen
In costume at parties, costume
contests, masquerade balls, themed nightclubs, and yes, even
Trick or Treating. Popular classics like transforming yourself
into a Sexy Witch and casting a spell over all who see you,
maybe being a Vampire Seductress for the night, or taking on the
sultry persona of the Queen of Halloween herself, Elvira,
Mistress of the Dark! Or go as a couple in his and her's Devil
costumes. Halloween gives people who are normally restrained a
chance to let loose a little, to get spooky, wild, wicked, or
even naughty without judgment. This one day a year where almost
anything goes exercise your chance to live out a fantasy, to be
as sexy, spooky or silly as you want to be. After all, deep down
we all want to be desired, to be seen as sexy and attractive. I
say be open and embrace it, but most of all have fun with it!
And when you go out this Halloween, see how many adults there
are who have created their personal version of something that
makes them just a little more enticing than they normally would
feel comfortable with.
History of Halloween,
like any other festival's history is inspired
through traditions that have transpired through
ages from one generation to another. We follow
them mostly as did our dads and grandpas. And as
this process goes on, much of their originality
get distorted with newer additions and
alterations. It happens so gradually, spanning
over so many ages, that we hardly come to know
about these distortions. At one point of time it
leaves us puzzled, with its multicolored faces.
Digging into its history helps sieve out the
facts from the fantasies which caught us
unaware. Yet, doubts still lurk deep in our
soul, especially when the reality differs from
what has taken a deep seated root into our
beliefs. The history of Halloween Day, as culled
from the net, is being depicted here in this
light. This is to help out those who are
interested in washing off the superficial hues
to reach the core and know things as they truly
are. 'Trick or treat' may be an innocent fun to
relish on the Halloween Day. But just think
about a bunch of frightening fantasies and the
scary stories featuring ghosts, witches,
monsters, evils, elves and animal sacrifices
associated with it. They are no more innocent.
Are these stories a myth or there is a blend of
some reality? Come and plunge into the Halloween
history to unfurl yourself the age-old veil of
mysticism draped around it.
the name... Halloween, or the Hallow E'en as
they call it in Ireland , means All Hallows Eve,
or the night before the 'All Hallows', also
called 'All Hallowmas', or 'All Saints', or 'All
Souls' Day, observed on November 1. In old
English the word 'Hallow' meant 'sanctify'.
Roman Catholics, Episcopalians and Lutherians
used to observe All Hallows Day to honor all
Saints in heaven, known or unknown. They used to
consider it with all solemnity as one of the
most significant observances of the Church year.
And Catholics, all and sundry, was obliged to
attend Mass. The Romans observed the holiday of
Feralia, intended to give rest and peace to the
departed. Participants made sacrifices in honor
of the dead, offered up prayers for them, and
made oblations to them. The festival was
celebrated on February 21, the end of the Roman
year. In the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV
introduced All Saints' Day to replace the pagan
festival of the dead. It was observed on May 13.
Later, Gregory III changed the date to November
1. The Greek Orthodox Church observes it on the
first Sunday after Pentecost.
Despite this connection with the Roman Church,
the American version of Halloween Day
celebration owes its origin to the ancient
(pre-Christian) Druidic fire festival called "Samhain",
celebrated by the Celts in Scotland, Wales and
Ireland. Samhain is pronounced "sow-in", with
"sow" rhyming with cow. In Ireland the festival
was known as Samhein, or La Samon, the Feast of
In Scotland, the celebration was known as
Hallowe'en. In Welsh it's Nos Galen-gaeof (that
is, the Night of the Winter Calends. According
to the Irish English dictionary published by the
Irish Texts Society: "Samhain, All Hallowtide,
the feast of the dead in Pagan and Christian
times, signalizing the close of harvest and the
initiation of the winter season, lasting till
May, during which troops (esp. the Fiann) were
quartered. Faeries were imagined as particularly
active at this season. From it the half year is
reckoned. also called Feile Moingfinne (Snow
(1) The Scottish Gaelis Dictionary defines it as
"Hallowtide. The Feast of All Soula. Sam + Fuin
= end of summer."
(2) Contrary to the information published by
many organizations, there is no archaeological
or literary evidence to indicate that Samhain
was a deity. The Celtic Gods of the dead were
Gwynn ap Nudd for the British, and Arawn for the
Welsh. The Irish did not have a "lord of death"
as such. Thus most of the customs connected with
the Day are remnants of the ancient religious
beliefs and rituals, first of the Druids and
then transcended amongst the Roman Christians
who conquered them.
Halloween history is one of religious
traditions, sacrifices and folklore. While it
seems strange to understand the motivation of
these ancient actions, it is good to know the
roots of our current practices of Halloween.
On October 31st, you will likely see
witches, ghosts, goblins, skeletons, demons, and other evil characters knocking
at your door and hollering "trick or treat", and they will expect a treat or you
will be tricked. There will be parties where kids (and even adults) bob for
apples, tell fortunes, or go through haunted houses. There will be decorations
of jack-o-lanterns, witches on brooms, and black cats. It is the only day of the
year when we give free food to strangers and display carved vegetables on our
front porches. . . .when you really think about it, October 31st is a very
strange day . . .Where did we get this celebration called Halloween?
The Celtic Connection
Our modern celebration of Halloween is a VERY distant
descendant of the ancient Celtic fire festival called Samhain. (The
word is pronounced "sow-en" rhyming with cow, because "mh" in the middle of an
Irish word has a "w" sound.) It was the biggest and most significant holiday of
the Celtic year. The Celts (pronounced 'Kelts") lived more than 2,000 years ago
in what is now Great Britain, Ireland, and France. Their new year began on
Celtic legends tell us that on this night, all the
hearth fires in Ireland were extinguished, and then re-lit from the central fire
of the Druids at Tlachtga, 12 miles from the royal hill of Tara. (The Druids
were the learned class among the Celts. They were religious priests who also
acted as judges, lawmakers, poets, scholars, and scientists.) Upon this sacred
bonfire the Druids burned animals and crops. The extinguishing of the hearth
fires symbolized the "dark half" of the year. The re-kindling from the Druidic
fire was symbolic of the returning life that was hoped for in the spring.
the Celtic belief system, turning points, such as the time between one day and
the next, the meeting of sea and shore, or the turning of one year into the next
were seen as magical times. The turning of the year was the most potent of these
times. This was the time when the "veil between the worlds" was at its thinnest,
and the dead could communicate with the living.
The feast of Samhain is described by MacCane
as order suspended. "During this interval the normal order of the universe is
suspended, the barriers between the natural and the supernatural are temporarily
removed, the sidh lies open and all divine beings and the spirits of the
dead move freely among men and interfere sometimes violently, in their affairs"
(Celtic Mythology, p. 127).
The Celts believed that when people died, they went to
a land of eternal youth and happiness called Tir nan Og. They did not have the
concept of heaven and hell that the Christian church later brought into the
land. The dead were sometimes believed to be dwelling with the Fairy Folk, who
lived in the numerous mounds or sidhe (pron. "shee") that dotted the
Irish and Scottish countryside.
The Celts did not actually have demons and devils in
their belief system. Some Christians describe Halloween as a festival in which
the Celts sacrificed human beings to the devil or some evil demonic god of
death. This is not accurate. The Celts did believe in gods, giants, monsters,
witches, spirits, and elves, but these were not considered evil, so much as
dangerous. The fairies, for example, were often considered hostile and menacing
to humans because they were seen as being resentful of men taking over their
lands. On this night of Samhain, the fairies would sometimes trick
humans into becoming lost in the fairy mounds, where they would be trapped
Folk tradition tells us of some divination practices
associated with Samhain. Among the most common were divinations dealing
with marriage, weather, and the coming fortunes for the year. These were
performed via such methods as ducking for apples and apple peeling. Ducking for
apples was a marriage divination. The first person to bite an apple would be the
first to marry in the coming year -- like the modern toss of the wedding
bouquet. Apple peeling was a divination to see how long your life would be. The
longer the unbroken apple peel, the longer your life was destined to be. In
Scotland, people would place stones or nuts in the ashes of the hearth before
retiring for the night. Anyone whose stone had been disturbed during the night
was said to be destined to die during the coming year.
Inaccurate Christian Teaching about Halloween
You will often read in the literature published by
Christian organizations (such as the tracts and comic books from publisher Jack
Chick) that, "Samhain was the Celtic God of the Dead, worshipped by the Druids
with dreadful bloody sacrifices at Halloween." Chick embroiders this fantasy in
a tract called "The Trick" and a full-sized comic book called, "Spellbound?",
His writings describe evil Druids going from
castle-door-to-door seeking virgin princesses to rape and sacrifice, leaving
carved pumpkins illuminated by candles ("made from human fat!") for those who
cooperated, and arranging demonic assassinations for those who refused to give
them what they wanted. This, according to Mr. Chick, is supposed to be the
"true" origin of trick or treating.
Let's look at a few historical facts (you can check out
primary sources for this information in the
Contrary to information published by
many Christian organizations, there is no historical or archeological
evidence of any Celtic deity of the dead named "Samhain." We know the names
of some 350 Celtic deities and Samhain isn't found among them. The
Celtic gods of the dead were Gwynn ap Nudd for the British, and Arawn for
the Welsh. The Irish did not have a "lord of death" as such.
McBain's Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic
Language says that "samhuinn" (the Scots
Gaelic spelling) means "summer's end."
It's not just Christian organizations that perpetuate this fallacy -- even
the World Book encyclopedia (1990) writes about "Samhain, the Celtic lord of
death" (World Book is in discussion with scholars in order to change this in
future editions.) This idea is based on a fallacy that seems to have come
from Col. Charles Vallency's books in the 1770s before the reliable
translations of existing Celtic literary works and before archaeological
excavations. (Col. Charles Vallency also tried to prove that the Irish were
descended from the inhabitants of Armenia!) Samhain is the name of
the holiday. There is no evidence of any god or demon named "Samhain," "Samain,"
"Sam Hane," or however you want to vary the spelling.
Contrary to Christian criticism from
many sources, Halloween did not originate as a Satanic festival, but was
religious in nature (of course, the religion I am referring to is the Celtic
faith of the ancient Druids rather than Christianity). This is an important
distinction, for Halloween’s association with Satanic worship is a modern
phenomenon. The Celts didn't worship the devil (or any god of death) on
It is important to distinguish between paganism and Satanism. Pagans are
people who believe in more than one god. Some modern day pagans call
Wiccans. [For more on
Wicca and modern witchcraft see
What is Witchcraft?]
Pagans are quick to emphasize that they do not worship Satan or the devil.
The devil is a Judeo-Christian concept, they say, because one has to believe
in a single God to believe in God's opposite: "We do not accept the concept
of 'absolute evil,' nor do we worship any entity known as 'Satan' or 'The
Devil.'" (Drawing Down the Moon, pp. 103).
Celts were pagans, not Satanists. Of course, from a Christian standpoint
both are in error. But to my mind there is a major difference between: (1)
pagans (who have not heard the gospel) practicing a holiday containing
fairies and elves and (2) Satanists (in rebellion against God) who sacrifice
children to the devil. There is no original evidence to indicate that
Samhain was any more Satanic than pagan harvest festivals of other
religions, like the Romans or the Greeks.
We have no evidence any where (from
tradition, Celtic texts, or archaeology) that virgin princesses or any one
else were being offered to the lord of death on Halloween.
There is general agreement that the Celts did in fact practice some form of
human sacrifice or human execution, but this seems to have been limited to
criminals, prisoners-of-war, or volunteers. (For more information on human
sacrifice and the Druids see
History of Halloween : Myths, Monsters and Devils.)
We have no evidence that Druids practiced human sacrifice on Halloween
(let alone sacrificed "virgin princesses").
- The pumpkin is a New World plant that never grew
in Europe until modern times, so it couldn't have been used to make
jack-o-lanterns by the Druids.
An exhaustive Victorian survey of Irish
calendar customs mentions divination games and apple bobbing as
Halloween pastimes, but says nothing about food collection or a
procession of "spirits."...On the question of masked begging at the
Celtic New Year, authorities on the Druids do not say a word. (Halloween
and Other Festivals of Death and Life, p. 83).
Where did costuming at Halloween come from? There
is a lot of confusion on this point. But in spite of what you may have read
in an encyclopedia or seen on the History Channel, I can find absolutely NO
historical evidence of costumed begging among the Druids or as part of the
We do have records of costumed processions in a
much later time (Christian times), but these costumed processions were NOT
limited to the Halloween holiday. They appear much more frequently at
Christmas. The earliest actual historic practice seems to have been poor
folk in masks and costumes going from house to house. They would put on a
simple play or musical performance in return for food and drink. This
practice is called mumming or guising and has no discernable connection to
You may be surprised to learn that your parents or
grandparents know nothing about costuming on Halloween. A reader sent me
mentioned in your article that the American custom came about in the 1930s
as a reaction to vandalism. My parents were kids in New York City in those
days, and I started looking for more info because of a comment my mom made
on Halloween night. It seems that Halloween as we know it did not exist at
the time--it was all pranks, as you mentioned (my mom mentioned taking gates
off posts and moving outhouses, as you did, and my dad said that in the days
of coal fuel there were big cans of ashes that the kids would tip over--a
The interesting part was that both of them said (Dad was born in 1924 and
Mom in 1927) that each year as kids, they did go from door to door begging
for food--but it was on Thanksgiving Day, not Halloween! My mom said that
rather than "Trick or Treat!" their line at each door was "Anything for the
poor? Anything for the poor?" They were given fruit, nuts, a cup of cider,
or the occasional coin--that sort of thing.
This email is similar to conversations with my own
mother (born 1928 and 1930 in Virginia), who told me that no one dressed in
costumes or went door-to-door when they were children. There were lots of
pranks on Halloween (some of which make great stories for the
grandchildren), but they know nothing of dressing up. So where did costuming
come from? That's a big question mark. Folklorist Tad Tuleja says that
costume parties are frequently mentioned in the early decades of the 1900s
(but nothing about going door-to-door in costume). The costume
parties themselves seem to be an attempt to involve children in disciplined
"fun" as opposed to destructive "fun."
- The actual phrase "trick
or treat" is not Druidic! The earliest known reference in print dates
only to 1938 in an article in the Los Angeles Times entitled "Halloween
Pranks Plotted by Youngsters of Southland," Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles,
California), October 30, 1938, p. A8: "Trick or treat!" is the Halloween
hijacking game hundreds of Southern California youngsters will play tomorrow
night as they practice streamlined versions of traditional Allhallows Eve
pranks." The phrase is not recorded by the Merriam-Webster Company until
1941. And the term is actually American, not European (Halloween and
Other Festivals of Death and Life, p. 47,86-90)!
It's not only the phrase that is American, the practice is too! In America
in the late 1800s and early 1900s, there was a custom of playing pranks on
Halloween. This custom appears to have come from immigrants from Ireland and
Scotland which had a practice called Mischief Night. Favorite pranks
included tipping over outhouses and unhinging fence gates (Charles Panati,
Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things). The pleasant fiction was
that such rambunctiousness was the work of "fairies," "elves," "witches" and
"goblins" (Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life, p. 87).
That's the "trick" part of Halloween.
Where did the "treat" part of Halloween come from?
Jill Pederson Meyer writes:
"By the turn of the century, Halloween had
become an ever more destructive way to “let off steam” for crowded and
poor urban dwellers. As Stuart Schneider writes in 'Halloween in
America' (1995), vandalism that had been limited to tipping outhouses;
removing gates, soaping windows and switching shop signs, by the 1920’s
had become nasty -- with real destruction of property and cruelty to
animals and people. Perhaps not coincidentally, the disguised nighttime
terrorism and murders by the Ku Klux Klan reached their apex during this
decade. Schneider writes that neighborhood committees and local city
clubs such as the Boy Scouts then mobilized to organize safe and fun
alternatives to vandalism. School posters of the time call for a “Sane
Halloween.” Good children were encouraged to go door to door and receive
treats from homes and shop owners, thereby keeping troublemakers away.
By the 1930’s, these “beggar’s nights” were enormously popular and being
practiced nationwide, with the “trick or treat” greeting widespread from
the late 1930s."
The Halloween begging activity known as
trick-or-treat comes from America in the 1930s, not the British Isles (for
A Letter from a MacDonald).
The custom was intended to control and displace disruptive pranks.
Every year, right around Halloween, we are treated to
an outpouring of literature making false statements about the origins of
Halloween. (In years past, I even helped distribute this type of literature to
my congregation.) But my research on this subject has found that the Christian
Halloween literature is vastly mistaken. Christians are guilty of spreading
falsehood (perhaps out of ignorance, but falsehood none the less). Believers do
no service to God or to other Christians by creating very frightening fantasies
masquerading as historical facts. Sloppy and improper scholarship makes
Christians look deceitful. It also makes God appear deceptive to unbelievers.
What I am arguing for is accurate information, rather
than falsehood. No, I'm not a "closet pagan." No, I'm not "a wolf in sheep's
clothing." No, I haven't "bought into pagan propaganda." I'm a born-again,
Bible-believing, filled with the Spirit Christian (did I use enough labels?)
trying to get at the historical truth.
At the Christian college I attended, I was taught that
all truth was God's truth and that we don't need to fear truth -- whether it
comes from secular, pagan, or Christian sources. Over a period of years I have
been reading and talking with folklorists, historians, Christians, pagans, and
Scotland and Ireland. The
origins of Halloween are NOT what most Christian literature teaches. Sorry, no
pumpkins with candles of human fat! Sorry, no human sacrifices by evil druids.
Sorry, dressing up can't be historically connected to the Celts. Sorry,
treat-or-treat is not a Satanist plot to captivate our children.
Halloween and the Middle Ages
What do Christians do with a holiday when pagans refuse
to stop practicing it? This was the dilemma that faced Christians in the Middle
Ages. (It is also the dilemma facing Christians today with 40 million children
going door-to-door each Halloween.)
In 601 A.D. Pope Gregory the First issued a now famous
edict to his missionaries concerning the native beliefs and customs of the
peoples he hoped to convert. Rather than try to obliterate native peoples'
customs and beliefs, the pope instructed his missionaries to use them: if a
group of people worshipped a tree, rather than cut it down, he advised them to
consecrate it to Christ and build a church around it.
In terms of quickly adding people to the Christian
faith, this was a brilliant concept and it became a basic approach used in
Catholic missionary work. In many cases, church holy days were purposely set to
coincide with native holy days. Christmas, for instance, was assigned the
arbitrary date of December 25th because it corresponded with the
celebration of many peoples.
In 835 Pope Gregory IV decided to move the practice of
All Saints' Day to November 1. This was possibly done to correspond with the
Celtic practice of Samhain. The Mass that was said on this day was
called Allhallowmas ("the mass of all the holy ones"). The evening
before All Saints' Day became known as All Hallow e'en ("the evening of
all the holy ones"). So you see the name "Halloween" is actually Christian, not
pagan. It is derived from All Saints Day.
The old beliefs associated with Samhain never
died out entirely. The powerful symbolism of fairies, elves, and the traveling
dead had a strong tie with the people and they were not satisfied with the new
Catholic feast honoring dead saints. When people continued some of the beliefs
and practices associated with Samhain, the church increased the rhetoric
against Samhain. They branded the earlier religion's practices as evil,
and began to associate them with the devil. As representatives of the rival
religion, Druids were considered malevolent worshippers of devilish or demonic
gods and spirits. Celtic belief in supernatural creatures (like elves and
fairies) persisted, while the church made attempts to define them as being no
longer merely mischievous, but wicked. People continued to celebrate All Hallows
Eve as a time of the wandering dead, but the supernatural beings were now
thought to be Satanic.
How did witches become connected to Halloween? Once the
Druids were branded as evil by the church, their practices were looked at as
"witchcraft." Followers of the old religion were persecuted, went into hiding,
and were branded as witches who worshipped
This is why European witchcraft became connected with Satan, whereas witchcraft
in other areas of the world is animistic in nature. October 31 became known as a
witch holiday. It was called "The Witches' Sabbath" by witch hunters and
eventually European witches began celebrating October 31 as one of their four
great Sabbaths held during the year.
Of course, in some ways from a Christian standpoint the
church's response makes sense. Doesn't the Bible view the worship of other gods
as deception by demons (1 Corinthians 10:18-22)? Yes, but the Bible also says
that Satan often preaches in Christian churches (2 Corinthians 11:13-14). Pagans
don't have a monopoly on evil, demonic deception, or harmful practices. As a
Christian (in spite of a good, pure, and holy God) I often do evil things and
fall into deception. Christians can also do very hurtful things in the name of
Christ. (Some of the worst hate mail that I get comes from Christians who don't
agree with me about baptism or giving or eternal security or grace or
I'm not sure that anything is gained by calling pagans,
Satanists or demon worshippers. It's easy to view yourself as God's agent and to
brand people with strong labels. Then you can justify not relating to them in
grace. You can begin to hate and fear them. And eventually you can persuade
yourself that as agents of Satan they deserve persecution (i.e. the inquisition
and witch burnings). This goes against everything that Jesus taught about
reaching out to pagans (1 Corinthians 5:9-13) and loving our enemies (Matthew
5:43-48), and showing mercy to them (Luke 6:27-36). The truth is that sometimes
Christians end up acting more like Satan, than pagans do.
the practice of Samhain was viewed as not merely wrong, but "trafficking
with Satan," it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Practitioners of the old
religion began associating medieval Satanic elements with Halloween. You can see
this association in many symbols and traditions of Halloween. Want to hold a
Halloween party? Be sure to use black and red crepe - the devil's colors
according to Medieval superstition... Decorate with a large spider - one of the
devil's followers... And don't forget the black cat. Christians during the
Middle Ages believed that every witch had a personal demon sent by Satan who
gave them their powers. This personal demon was called a familiar. The
familiars, which lived with their witches, usually existed in the form of some
animal -- often a black cat. This is a superstitious practice of medieval
Christians, however, and should not be attributed to the ancient Celts.
(Domestic cats were apparently not introduced to Northern Europe until
post-Julius Caesar, and didn't really "catch on" until after AD 1050.)
about the jack-o'-lantern? People in England and Ireland carved out beets,
potatoes, and turnips to use as lanterns (not just on Halloween). The hollowing
out of a turnip to serve as a makeshift lantern was simply a clever way to solve
a technical problem in the absence of available metal. According to an 18th
jack-o'-lanterns were named for a man named Jack, who could not enter heaven
because he was a miser. He could not enter hell either, because he had played
jokes on the devil. Hence, Jack is a damned soul doomed to wander in darkness
until Judgment Day. This legend is recent and does NOT go back to ancient times.
If it was ancient, we would find it in literature, the Christian art of Western
Europe, pagan carvings, or somewhere in graphic representations. It is notable
by its absence. After this legend reached America, pumpkins began to be used,
rather than turnips, to represent Jack's lantern. The purpose of the lantern was
to ward off evil, not participate in it!
The Present Day Celebration of Halloween
Halloween celebrations (of any kind or form) did not
become popular in the United States until the late 1800s. It appears to have
arrived after 1840, when large numbers of immigrants arrived from Ireland and
Scotland and introduced elements like Mischief Night, beliefs about elves and
fairies, and practices such as jack-o'-lanterns. (Many of the Halloween customs
that they brought to America probably did not enter Irish and Scottish culture
until after 1750.) The practice does not come from ancient times, but modern. It
must be said that "Halloween" as we know it in America, with all the folk
stories and urban legends attached to it, is a distinctly American phenomenon,
with the "Trick or Treat" bits occurring after 1930.
Halloween is celebrated in many countries today, but
this is actually a result of secular American influence:
...the trick-or-treat and masking customs on 31
October in England and Finland have been introduced from the United States
and Canada (Halloween and Other Festivals of Death, p. 162).
Does anyone today celebrate the Celtic holiday of
Samhain as a religious observance? Yes. During the mid-1900's, a new interest in
pagan religion occurred in Europe and the United States. As a result, paganism
as an organized religion has attracted large numbers of people. Many followers
of various pagan religions, such as Druids and Wiccans observe Samhain as a
religious festival. They view it as a memorial day for their dead friends,
similar to the United States' national holiday of Memorial Day in May.
Modern pagans (and non-Satanic witches) would
vehemently deny that their celebration has anything to do with the demonic
horrors depicted in such films as Friday the 13th. To them, Halloween is one of
the four greater Sabbats (holidays) held during the year. Halloween for them is
a time of "harvest celebration. It is a time of ritual, a time for ridding
oneself of personal weaknesses, a time for feasting and joyful celebration. It
is also a time for communing with the spirits of the dead. It is still a night
to practice various forms of divination concerning future events."
Contrary to popular belief Halloween is not the most
important celebration for Satanists. Most Satanists celebrate their own
birthdays as their most important "unholi"-day, which is to be expected from
adherents of a religion who believe that the highest form of religion is
"worship of self" (The Satanic Bible, Anton LaVey). Some of the stories of
Satanic ritual abuse that are passed around in Christian circles may have no
basis in fact (like those found in Rebecca Brown's book "He Came to Set the
Captives Free"). According to Christian researchers Bob and Gretchen Passantino
(see their well-researched book entitled Satanism by Bob and Gretchen
Passantino, Zondervan, 1995):
"The actual incidence level of satanic-associated
crime is very low, and on Halloween consists mostly of petty vandalism and
desecration of graveyards and churches; satanic graffiti; raucous rituals
including drug and/or alcohol use and sexual promiscuity; and very rarely
sexual violence or animal killing. The most well-known documented criminal
activity associated with Halloween are the "Devil's Night" fires that were
rampant in the Detroit area. These destructive bonfires were not religiously
inspired, but were a convenient excuse for out-of-control juveniles to act
destructively, often in their own communities.
It is not true that satanists look for "Christian
virgins" to rape during Halloween rituals. A young Christian is much more
likely to be in danger of a drunk driver, or a party that gets out of hand
with drug or alcohol use than of satanic abduction. Occasional anti-social,
criminally committed individuals or small groups that also practice
self-styled satanism commit crimes on Halloween, but they invariably betray
a pattern of sociopathy at other times as well.
It is not true that poisoning or sabotaging of
Halloween treats is a significant risk if parents take sensible precautions.
Most horror stories are unsubstantiated rumors that quickly cross the
country, gaining embellishments, and unnecessarily frightening parents. If
parents are careful about restricting their children's treats to ones from
people they know and trust, or from a formal program run by a church,
community group, or merchant association, they should be fairly safe. In
many communities, local hospitals and/or police stations will screen treats
free of charge."
How should Christians react to Halloween?
"Halloween is the most dangerous day
of the year -- when Satanists and witches snatch children off the streets
and sacrifice them in Satan's name!"
"We don't worship other gods or honor
the dead on Halloween. Halloween is nothing but a secular time of fun and
games -- an excuse for the kids to dress up and overload on sugar!"
"I love to see the children, out in
the neighborhood streets with their parents, dressed in funny clothing,
having a wonderful time .... and mocking the Devil with laughter."
These are three examples of very different Christian
reactions to Halloween. Allow me to offer some opinions.
1. Occult and Satanic Elements:
Deuteronomy 18:11 says: "There shall not be found
among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one
who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens,
or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, one who
calls up the dead."
of the present realities we must be aware of is that in recent decades, pagan,
cultic groups, and some Satanists have claimed Halloween as a "holy day." As
Christians we must avoid any action forbidden by our Lord. We should never seek
to know the future through horoscopes, divination, or
We should not seek to talk to or call up the dead (necromancy). We should not
pray to other gods. We should not seek "power" over other people by the use of
spells or supernatural forces. The practice of pagan witchcraft is specifically
prohibited in both the Old and New Testaments (Leviticus 19:31; Acts 19:18-20;
Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 22:15). Witchcraft (whether pagan or Satanic) is
dangerous and harmful. We are to submit to God and resist the devil; not form
alliances with him (James 4:7). The Bible certainly makes it clear that we
should not participate with pagans in speaking to the dead on October 31 (or any
2. Non-Satanic elements:
Although some devil worshippers have adopted Halloween
as their "holiday," the day itself did not grow out of Satanic practices.
Halloween has some weak connections to Celts celebrating a new year, but most of
present day Halloween customs are neither pagan, nor Satanic. Here is a table of
practices and dates as they are connected with Halloween:
||black cats, spiders
||tricks & pranks
||trick or treat
||Celts or Medieval witchcraft
||Irish Mischief Night
||Boy Scouts & others
||pagan religious practice
||pagan religious practice
||fear & easy labels
||"those nasty fairies"
||ward off evil
||yes - Phil 4:8
Most holidays (even
Easter) contain evil, neutral, and good
elements as part of their celebration. Christians must discern one from the
other and make decisions that glorify God and cause no harm to their personal
walk with Christ. Christians seem to have no trouble making these distinctions
about Christmas, but we utterly fail to do the necessary thinking when it comes
to Halloween. In my opinion, present day Halloween has some evil elements
(divination rituals, communication with spirits), some neutral elements (sorry,
costumes didn't come from evil Druids involved in human sacrifice), and some
good elements (asking
for candy was an attempt by the Boy Scouts of
America to calm the abuse of the holiday!).
As W.J. Bethancourt III says: "Each Christian must
decide for themselves whether dressing up in funny clothes and asking for candy
from the neighbors is 'satanic' and 'necromancing' or not. Allowing your
children to dress up as mass-murderers and as villains from the Hollywood
slasher movies may or may not be 'satanic,' but it certainly is stupid. Making
such creatures objects of 'hero-worship' might not be giving the kind of message
to a child that necessarily enables them to become sober, productive adults."
children as ballerinas or cartoon characters or Bible heroes seems far removed
from Satanism or any practice of paganism.
What I have tried to show is that much of the
association with witchcraft and Satanic elements has actually come from
Christian misinformation attempting to "demonize" this holiday. There is no
evidence that the original Celtic celebration was Satanic. Much of the
information on Halloween that Christians preach and write about is plainly based
on shoddy research. While Christians should absolutely avoid pagan practices,
Christian hype tends to make us overreact to benign folk elements of Halloween.
We appear like zany buffoons to the world when there is no necessity for doing
so. Furthermore, our groundless retreat from all elements of Halloween leaves a
vacuum that wicked elements delight to fill.
October 31st is only a day on the calendar. Halloween,
like any other day, is only as evil as one cares to make it.
3. Alternative Celebrations:
I would also suggest using the holiday to be involved
in the joy and celebration of All Saints’ Day, thanksgiving for harvest, and the
celebration of the Reformation of the Church. Here are two tracts which offer
alternatives to the traditional American celebration of Halloween:
One successful alternative used by a
number of churches is a "Faith Festival" in which children dress as their
favorite Bible character and gather for a special children's service with
puppets, a Christian film, or something special. This offers an ideal
opportunity to explain the spiritual significance of Halloween and to
encourage the children to remember Hebrews chapter 11, which features great
men and women of faith who have gone before us. The "Faith Festival" can be
a time to thank God for His many blessings.
As believers, we can take this
opportunity to provide a creative alternative to this celebration. In
ancient Israel, the majority of Jewish festivals occurred at the same time
as pagan festivals. God did not simply tell his people not to engage in
pagan festivals, He provided an alternative. During every major pagan
festival, the Hebrew people would take part in a God-given alternative, a
festival celebrating the same general subject but with a completely
There are many wholesome alternatives for our children:
a church Bible costume party, Reformation Day church service, holding a harvest
celebration like the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles.
4. Being Positive Without Fear:
Regardless of the position you take regarding your
family's response to Halloween, if you are concerned about the evil associations
with Halloween, you can rejoice that you can "resist the devil and he will flee
from you" (James 4:7) and that through the cross Christ has "disarmed
principalities and powers," and "made a public spectacle of them, triumphing
over them" (Colossians 2:15).
I would certainly suggest using the holiday to teach
our children about the triumph in Christ of God over evil. This should not be a
night that we hide from in fear, but a night (like every night) when a Christian
can stand confident in victory, because the One who lives in us is greater, than
the one who lives in the world (1 John 4:4). "You, dear children, are from God
and have overcome them!" (1 John 4:4).
Holding oneself apart from the world is perhaps a good
thing, but sometimes this is just an excuse for being afraid. We are reminded to
be "in the world" and "sent to the world", as well as being "not of the world"
(John 17:15-18). There are very few times when strangers actually come to your
door and ask you to give them something! Our family has used Halloween to hand
out Christian tapes to everyone that has come-a-begging! Some Christian children
use "trick or treating" by giving a tract in return for the candy they receive
at each house. What a wonderful way to spread the gospel! A smile, some candy, a
tract and a "God bless you!" will save more souls than hiding in your house with
the porch light off.
As a believer in Jesus Christ and thus a child of God,
I personally do not give much honor to the celebration of Halloween, but our
family does participate in some of the neutral elements of Halloween and we use
Halloween to reach people who don't know Jesus. We also use Halloween to
celebrate the victory that I and other saints have over the wickedness of this
A good general principle should be to refrain from
participating in anything that compromises your faith or brings dishonor to
Jesus Christ. Another good principle is to look for ways to become a positive,
Christ-proclaiming voice in the midst of a secular and pagan world. Each
Christian must be persuaded in his own conscience about how they approach
Why Did I Write This Article?
What I'm arguing for is:
(1) Accurate information, rather than falsehood.
(2) A little bit of tolerance toward Christians who
choose to participate in "harmless" Halloween activities that have no connection
to paganism (like pumpkins, dressing up, or treat-or-treat).
(3) For the Christian community to think about how it
is going to handle Halloween -- because it is not going to go away. It is more
popular than ever. We can redeem it for Christ or we can use fear and scare
tactics to hide our light under a basket (Matthew 5:15).
I think we find a close parallel in
Christmas wasn't celebrated by the early church until the fourth century. In
that century, the church decided to try to redeem a Roman pagan winter solstice
festival (the birthday of the unconquered sun). Sometime before 336 the Church
in Rome, unable to stamp out this pagan festival, spiritualized it as the "Feast
of the Nativity of the Sun of Righteousness." In some ways, I think Christians
have succeeded in giving December 25 a new meaning.
I really think Pope Gregory had the right idea. Take
pagan holidays and assign Christian events or practices to them and redeem them
for Christ. Christians have as much right as any other group to lay claim to a
day on the calendar (Romans 14:6). What's the alternative? The alternative is to
let pagans, devil worshippers, or Hollywood producers put their stamp on October
31. At the very least, this will mean a day given over to the celebration of
(what the Bible calls) superstitions, false gods and goddesses. At its worst,
Halloween becomes a Mardi gras of the grotesque, of destruction, of wickedness,
and of death, because we weren't being a preservative for good (Matthew 5:13).