Seven Reasons Why Christians Should Celebrate ‘Halloween’

Is celebrating a holiday that honors ghouls, demons, ghosts, and everything that goes bump in the night dangerous or even evil?

Somewhere, in the halls of history, Halloween or All Hallows Eve, got hijacked. What started as a day to prepare for All Saints’ Day (November 1st), Halloween became a spooky, evil, and candy filled observance. The term “Halloween” from its beginnings, had nothing to do with any pagan or evil beliefs. The Christian festival All Hallows Eve morphed into our current term Hallowe’en.

The key in understanding of the origins of the term Halloween comes from the sense of what is “hallowed” or “holy”. In the Lord’s Prayer, Christians pray, “Our Father, in heaven, hallowed be your name…” In the fourth century, John Chrysostom tells us that the Eastern church celebrated a festival in honor of all saints who died. In the seventh and eighth centuries, Christians celebrated “All Saints’ Day” formally.

How did Halloween become associated with evil spirits? When we look at history we discover:

More than a thousand years ago Christians confronted pagan rites appeasing the lord of death and evil spirits… the druids, in what is now Britain and France, observed the end of summer with sacrifices to the gods. It was the beginning of the Celtic year, and they believed Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves. The waning of the sun and the approach of dark winter made the evil spirits rejoice and play nasty tricks.

If the Christian observance of Halloween began with a religious focus, how can we reclaim Halloween from its current feared status? Here are 7 ways Christians can take back Halloween:

1. Understand that All Hallows Eve (Halloween) and the ancient pagan festival of Samhain are not the same. Halloween is often associated with the pagan concept of Samhain, the festival where ancient pagans believed that the worlds of the living and dead would been thinly divided. But, we have seen from the other ancient pagan festivals associated with Christmas and Easter that these pagan connections do not serve as a reason why we cannot celebrate a Christian holiday. Despite claims by modern Wiccans and Druids, no one really knows what happened during Samhain. There is not one shred of evidence of what actually took place. Not authentic historical accounts. History has proven that the Christianizing of the calendar has created a rich heritage of faith and spirituality rather than something more evil. Gregory III (731–741) and Gregory IV (827–844) moved the Christian holiday All Saints’ Day from May 13 to November 1 to replace the pagan rituals on October 31 and November 1. Gregory III instructed people to dress up as saints . Let the occult have Samhain, we are taking All Hallows Eve back.

2. The establishment of Christmas and Easter in Europe had pagan connections but we do not abandon these holidays. Neither should we abandon All Hallows Eve. Much of the beef of conservative Christians surrounding Halloween is centered around how pagan observances where mash together with Halloween. Most Christians may not understand that Christmas was opted for a December observance because of the Nordic holiday of Yule (ever heard of a Yule log?) Many scholars believe that Jesus’ birthday was in fact during warmer months rather than colder months. For the ancient pagans, in the beginning of the winter solstice, the days became shorter and the weather became much colder. As a pagan observance, the Scandinavian cultures would keep a fire going with a giant tree or log for people often made sacrifices before an oak tree for a period of 12 days… a connection with the 12 days of Christmas? Not to mention the Christmas tree. Pagans would burn or use evergreens in their festivals.

The observance of Easter is the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. However, The modern English word “Easter“ can be traced to an older English word Ēastre or Ēostre or Eoaster, which refers to Eostur-monath, a month that the Germanic peoples named after the goddess Ēostre. If the word Easter has connections to pagan rituals of celebrating the spring time, does that devalue Easter? No.

3. Understanding that early Christians contextualized early pagan holidays into Christian holidays helps us to see that we do not have to compromise our beliefs with pagan ones. Anthony McRoy, a Fellow of the British Society for Middle East Studies at Wales Evangelical School of Theology reminds us:

Of course, even if Christians did engage in contextualization—expressing their message and worship in the language or forms of the local people—that in no way implies doctrinal compromise. Christians around the world have sought to redeem the local culture for Christ while purging it of practices antithetical to biblical norms. After all, Christians speak of “Good Friday,” but they are in no way honoring the worship of the Norse/Germanic queen of the gods Freya by doing so.

4. “Evil” themes in our current secular Halloween observances were not always present. Thus, we can recapture the spiritual with the innocent. Halloween does not have to be a holiday filled with Draculas, bloody masks, or witches. There was a time when children dressed up, but their costumes were not sinister. Sue Ellen Thompson’s book Holiday Symbols records that during the Great Depression, “children often disguised themselves as hobos, burglars, pirates… in other words, as economic and social outcasts, symbolic of the troubles from which their parents were struggling to escape.” (link) Those children were trying to make light of their situation. In many cultures, taunting or comically characterizing personal cultural strife was a way of triumphing over that which could not be over come in their collective psyche.

Elesha Coffman wrote , “Festival of Fears”, in Christianity Today that Halloween in the 19th century were devoid of scary masks and monsters:

Mainstream Halloween celebrations in the Victorian era were generally tame and devoid of occult overtones. Instead of pulling pranks or haunting neighborhoods, young people chatted and flirted in festooned parlors. By the beginning of the twentieth century, some towns had gone so far as to make Halloween primarily a civic affair, complete with parades and block parties.

5. If you still think Halloween is an evil day, then maybe you should see All Hallows Eve as a time when Christians can laugh and even mock evil. Anderson M. Rearick, assistant professor of English at Mount Vernon Nazarene College in Ohio, challenges us to rethink Halloween:

Should the forces of evil be mocked? Should Satan be laughed at? He most certainly should be. At the beginning of The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis includes two telling quotations, the first from Martin Luther: “The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.”

The second comes from Thomas More: “The devil … the proud spirit cannot endure to be mocked.”

The one thing Satan cannot bear is to be a source of laughter. His pride is undermined by his own knowledge that his infernal rebellion against God is in reality an absurd farce. Hating laughter, he demands to be taken seriously. Indeed, I would say that those Christians who spend the night of October 31 filled with concern over what evils might be (and sometimes are) taking place are doing the very thing Lucifer wants them to do. By giving him this respect, such believers are giving his authority credence.

Christians should instead celebrate Halloween with gusto. If we follow the traditional formula of having a good time at his expense, Satan flees.

By laughing, mocking, and even “cartooning” evil by goofy costumes we can take a posture of triumph with Christ.

6. Christians should focus and teach the concept of celebrating All Saint’s Day, November 1st in churches.
The term “saint” is used over 60 times in the New Testament. We protestants use the word saints to describe the Christians living and dead. We can also honor our loved ones who have given us Christ, such as our parents, grandparents, etc… We thank God for them and pray that the living “saints” may live in community. Churches can use All Saints Day to light candles as an act of prayer for thanking God for the special people (“saints”) in our lives.

We can also learn from the saints of the church for the last 2,000 years. We protestants have often been fearful of honoring and learning from the Church saints for fear that we are venerating them as Catholics do.

7. Christ holds the “keys to death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18). We can take comfort in the fact that Christ defeated death. Even the mere name of “Jesus Christ” can make evil shutter and even follow the commands of God. When Jesus confronted evil demons in the New Testament they were fearful and obeyed the commands of Jesus to leave the people they possessed. Much of the outcry concerning Halloween comes from the fear of evil or welcoming evil into their homes or lives. No one should go out and look for spiritual warfare, but we should take comfort in knowing that Christ has given us the tools to fend away evil: faith in God, scripture, the power of Christ, the Holy Spirit, fasting, and prayer.

Why should Christians allow others to claim Halloween as their own? We should not. We should take it back All Hallows Eve by embracing All Saints Day and remembering our “saints”. By separating All Hallows Eve from the pre-Christian practices, Christians can take comfort in understanding the historical Christian remembrance that is associated with All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day. Children can collect donations for UNICEF or for a local cause. We Christians can also view Halloween as a fun event for children by having events in churches or in our communities where children and their parents can dress up, play games, and share some treats in a safe place.

Alan Rudnick

Author's Website
About the Author
Alan Rudnick has been featured on television, radio, print, and social media and serves as the Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Ballston Spa, NY. He has quickly established himself as a leader, blogger, and commentator in the areas of faith, Christianity, ministry, and social media. He is the author of, “The Work of the Associate Pastor”, Judson Press. Alan’s writing has been featured with the Albany Times Union, The Christian Century, Associated Baptist Press, and The Fund of Theological Education. http://alanrudnick.org

Read more posts by

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.w.morehead John W. Morehead

    Thank you for this. I have written repeatedly on this and related topics on my blogs. One place to start for those interested is http://johnwmorehead.blogspot.com/2009/09/suggestions-for-more-careful.html. For others see http://www.theofantastique.com.

  • David Smith

    Nice blog. Got actual reason behind celebration of Halloween. Great. Here are some latest tips or ideas which you can use on this beautiful day to make it memorable: http://www.freedentistfinder.com/blog/2012/10/29/at-halloween-give-video-games-to-trick-or-treaters-not-candy/

  • EnK

    I read this blog entry on another website that carried it and the comments section was turned off. The comments were interesting – but wildly gone awry.

    While I can appreciate your historical perspective, I’ll also have to take some difference in your theological and historical facts. No worries! I don’t hate you! You’re simply following along with the “norm” from Christian and academic history – which has a taint from reality.

    a.) Paganism is a very old word that translates, literally as “Peasant Folk”. However, that doesn’t hold weight on the meaning behind the word itself. Bear with me: The word is probably better translated as “country folk”, “country bumpkins”, or perhaps “hillbillies”. While France and Britain battled by stealing each others monarchical crowns and thrones, culture, societal structures and lifestyles were dramatically affected in the urban/populated areas while the “country bumpkins” were far more isolated. When the Roman Empire converted to Christianity, the veneer of religion was added to that to social structure. Put simply: “Tossing salt over your shoulder for good luck is a ‘pagan belief’.” Hanging horseshoes over your door for good luck was also a “pagan belief”.

    The idea of “paganism” as an “occult” is ridiculous. Believe it or not, the peoples of Europe had a religion long before Rome showed up in 25-odd AD in what we now call England. Christian arrogance would only argue with that fact. These religious constructs were astonishingly parallel with North American and South American aboriginal beliefs: “Our lives are bound to the Great Goddess and without Her, we do not exist.”. Now today, “The Great Goddess” translates as “Mother Nature” – it’s female and only females bring forth life. The idea that females give birth was considered “mystical”, “magical”. You can point to the ancient culture of Egypt and recall their “highest of holy” gods was Isis – who was female. She gave birth to Osiris and from them, all the rest of their deistic structure is assembled. Obviously, modern science, we know both male and female brings life, plants, animals, insects, livestock and the human race. However, we’re talking about an ancient people with a mixture of ancient spiritual beliefs mixing with a massive Christian take-over of European society.

    b.) The Christian Church teaches, even in most congregations today, that the Earth is of the dominion of Lucifer. The Old Testament tells how Yahweh casts Lucifer out of Heaven, shames him to embarrassment and binds him to our “Earth”.

    Note: Paganism doesn’t have a “Satan”, a “Lucifer” or an “Evil God”. In fact, few religions include an “evil god” like the Christian faith does. Christians preach the “Holy Trinity”, but in actuality – Satan (a.k.a. is also a god.) Not liked very much! …But nonetheless, he’s still a Christian god! Pagan people acknowledge evil spirits, sure! Most contemporary and ancient religious constructs believe in evil, but not a lot of them have evil as a “god”. But there’s no “evil god” in pagan religious constructs from ancient British and French aboriginal people. “Satan”, or “Lucifer” is a Christian belief – stop trying to push it off onto a cultural religious construct without their ability to defend themselves.

    Pagan belief celebrates the “Wheel of Time”. Spring, summer, autumn, winter – begin the wheel all over again. Consequently, these people held their celebrations and rituals around that “Wheel”. That explains why we see “Easter bunnies, chicks and eggs” in the Spring Season: It’s the Great Goddess bring life to us all. The “Yule log”, as you correctly pointed out, is burned during the shortest day of the year – Dec 21st, Winter Solstice.

    Samhain, as you also correctly pointed it out, is a holiday celebrating the End of Harvest and we enter our bleak, cold and desperate days of short daylight, snowstorms and freezing rain.

    Mabon marked the beginning of harvest ( August) while Samhain marks the end. The beer has been fermented, the root vegetables have been celled underground, and the family gathers and gives thanks to their ancestral dead. Do they worship the dead? No, not the same as a Christian would define the word worship. They marked their homage to their crop harvest and their thanks to their gods and ancestors for their survival through the looming winter months ahead of them.

    c.) During this time – the (Roman) Christian Church viewed these “country bumpkins” with disdain. “Earth worship” equated to “satanic worship”, since they “prayed” to the Mother Earth. High society in the urban areas had money and power and gave liberally to the priests and the monks. However, political power required all people worship the “Holy Church”, and these country folk’s beliefs denied them that power.

    All people of the day worked. Man’s work included blacksmithing, herding, leather tooling, hunting or fishing. Woman’s work included gardening, spinning wool, weaving or housekeeping for a family of wealth. One job for women was on the topic of midwifery. When a couple suspected they might be pregnant, his job was to find and contract with a midwife. She was responsible for that pregnancy from conception throughout that child’s life until one or the other had died.

    These midwives lived in the outskirts of towns everywhere throughout Europe. “Healing” was mystical: poultices, repairing broken limbs, infections, tooth decay – all were up to the midwife. They didn’t have a “family”, as they were of their own family in a sisterhood of knowledge. It would be a few hundred years before the Church began the ridiculous idea of “blood letting” to cure. They lived in the outskirts of the forest because their backyards was quite literally, their laboratory!

    The original term for these “midwives” was “Wic”, or “Wic-CA”. It translates literally as “Wise Woman”. Having the knowledge of healing was a very mysteriously and very “magikal” science. Fact: A simple cure for a headache — cut a small limb from a willow. With a knife, slice the limb lengthwise and with the tip of your blade, clear the center-core of that limb (the heart-core) out and eat it. i..e., the center (heart) of the willow naturally produces aspartame – what we call Aspirin today. Knowledge of this information was thought to be “quite magical”.

    It was the Christian church who created a “slur” on the word “Wic” or “Wic-Ca”. And that slur was “Witch”. It’s a commercialization slur on what you and would call the “Family Physician”. And it was the Christian church who persecuted these old ladies with a passion. It eventually became what’s known as “The Witchcraft Trials”.

    The truth behind Samhain?

    While families gathered to pray and thank their harvest, the Wic would go door to door to look for a “tip”, or a little money for their (good) work from the year past. They purchased what they need from the market and then joined their “family” deep in the forest for their own celebration. This was when they gathered to feast, laugh, drink, exchange ideas and techniques and dance together.

    The priests chastised their parishioners for their generosity. “You don’t give money to ‘Satan Worshippers’! You give it to us!” This developed with children following these Wic’s around and throwing rocks and rotted vegetables at them, eventually to what we call “Trick Or Treat” as a child festival.

    The construct between Christian (modern) and pagan (ancient) is twisted with a massive overly of academic and religious bias that doesn’t come close to making sense anymore. Spend some time studying Native American religious constructs, Australian and many African religious beliefs and you’ll begin to see parallels that will help you a great deal.

    Please stop trying to peddle the idea that “pagan” equals “occult” and mixing the idea of “mysticism” to “satanism”. No worries! I took a medieval studies course at the U of MN and professor tried to peddle the same idea that before the first Christian crusades, the people of Europe “didn’t have a religion”. It’s ridiculous and it only feeds Christian ideology and ego. The professor lost that argument, by the way. But only because I deserve my own ego stroke once in a while.

  • http://www.facebook.com/up.the.mountain.uk John Philip

    Sorry, but I can no more agree with you on this than agree with those who say that Halloween is a ‘work of the devil’ and predict dire judgements on those who mark it.

    My problem is simple. The celebration of Halloween, like Christmas and Easter, trivialises reality. Evil is as real as Jesus’s birth and rising to new life. Yet the way in which Halloween is marked suggests that ghoulies and ghosties, witches and goodness knows what else are all just a bit of fun. They are not.

    My daughter wnet to school with a girl who assured her of the reality of Father Christmas on the grounds that he lived next door to Baby Jesus. It’s almost sweet in its idiocy! Of course, this was the result of parents being frightenened of losing their childhood memories of Christmas celebrations, all those threats about being passed by if they weren’t well behaved, and adults going ‘Ahhh’ at them. Easter bunnies and eggs are similar in their empty sentimentality. When children are taught, even promised and threatened, that Santa is real they are being set up for a huge fall. When they discover that Santa is a lie (or ‘story’ if we choose to be kind) they assume that Jesus is too. It takes time, of course, for the two to become linked in their minds, but the result is almost assured in the majority of cases. Jesus too becomes a childhood fantasy.

    Don’t get me wrong! I am not at all against celebrations. My children are in their thirties and still enjoy Christmas so much at our home that they almost always visit for a week, and they are not all followers of Jesus. (Two out of four are defintiely atheist – the two who grew up believing in Father Christmas, before we made the decision to be honest. We have all the usual trappings and a ball of a time! But all our kids say that their children will grow up without the fantasy stories and lies that surround Christmas.

    So, back to Halloween – just fun? No, it is a falsehood to suggest that it is just fun, and it discourages children from learning to distinguish between what is truly evil and what is genuinely fun. And for those children who do learn the difference there is the strong risk that they will assunme that the falsehoods about Halloween must equate with other adult tales of good and evil, such as the story of Jesus. This is a ‘festival’ I would love to see vanish, because there is no way to celebrate it without trivialising the whole idea.

  • harrywinsome

    I know there are many traditional reasons regarding Halloween and Christian, Have you seen the opinion of Tim Lucas from Liquid Church in NJ? Here is  a link to a video where he talks about the issue facing families today: http://www.timlucas.tv/can-christians-celebrate-halloween/

  • Pingback: Halloween Faq: Halloween Traditions Around The World